According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dank Vapes was the most popular and commonly used THC product used by patients who developed a life-threatening vaping illness, however, it is unlikely that a single brand could have caused the national outbreak.
THC or tetrahydro cannabidiol is the psychoactive substance found in marijuana plants that is responsible for causing hallucinations when people smoke weed or have a joint. It is known to produce euphoria like feeling that often changes the chemical activity in your brain. Excessive use of highly potent THC could lead to permanent mental disorders and addiction to marijuana.
The U.S. Federal government had legalized industrial hemp production last year in December under the Farm Bill Act that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. Along with this, the maximum legal concentration permitted for THC was 0.3% per dry weight, any level above this is considered illegal.
Companies hopped on the CBD bandwagon without a blink after the Farm bill. CBD products ranging from oils, creams, topicals, ointments, isolate, to gummies, vape pens, and dietary supplements were launching at a skyrocketing speed. As the legal cannabis market grew multifold, so did the illicit and unregulated cannabis market.
There are ample companies that have unregulated products that are not tested or authorized for consumer sales. In addition to this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet created a regulatory guideline for the sales and consumption of CBD products, which further complicates the legality of CBD edibles and dietary supplements.
Despite this, companies continue to sell CBD edibles, pet products, and dietary supplements.
EVALI, the mysterious ailment, has hospitalized 2,291 people across the United States and killed 48 people since reports of it started emerging earlier this year. The health officials quickly associated the illness to vaping but were unable to identify the precise cause of what triggered the disease.
Among 1,782 patients, about 80% said they had vaped THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and 12% reported they vaped CBD, another cannabis compound derived from hemp. While the investigation by CDC has narrowed into THC products, the agency noted that 13% of patients said they had only vaped nicotine, the addictive chemical found in e-cigarettes.
Dank Vapes was the most commonly used product, with more than 50% of the hospitalized patients saying they used it. The CDC classifies Dank Vapes as counterfeit products of unknown origin. Smart Cart, Rove, and TKO were other popular brands among patients. However, there was a significant difference in which products patients used based on their region.
CDC said the nationwide outbreak of EVALI patients highlight that it is not a single brand that is responsible for this ailment, rather it can be the regional differences in products containing THC that might be related to these product sources.
Among other suspects, Vitamin E oil is also emerging as one as the state and federal researchers have discovered it in the THC vaping products. Vitamin E oil is generally used in beauty products and skincare and is increasingly being diluted in THC vaping liquids- with allegedly deadly consequences.
There are no confirmed results yet on what’s actually causing the outbreak.
The CDC said that although Vitamin E acetate is also a primary suspect linked with EVALI, many product sources and substances are being investigated now as there could be other reasons for this ailment.
In addition to the hovering danger around THC vaping products, CBD also seems to be getting unsafe as days pass by. Companies are continuously producing CBD products with high medical claims, but there’s little data to back them up. The only approved cannabis-based medicine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is Epidiolex, an oral solution that is used to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children- Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome.
Other than this, the FDA is highly concerned about how companies are selling unregulated and unauthorized CBD products to consumers. The agency recently issued warning letters to 15 companies for marketing their CBD products with medical claims, or for not using the real ingredients mentioned on the labels in the product. The FDA also released a Consumer Update on November 25 which outlined that CBD is not as safe as consumers think it is and there might be long term side effects to it which the agency is currently researching into.
It is recommended for users to purchase legal CBD and THC products from authorized stores and licensed retailers only. With the booming CBD industry, the risk related to the health of consumers is also on the rise.