Cannabis Vape and Consumer Confidence
2019 has been a mixed bag for the cannabis industry. While many states have joined the bandwagon by decriminalizing minor pot possession and legalizing its use for both recreational and medical purposes, there has been a bit of a downturn in sales in the latter part of this year. The recent vaping crisis has hit the industry hard, causing a decline in vaping and consumer confidence. Fears have been sparked as to the safety of both illegal and legal marijuana vape products.
Stories related to the vape crisis seem to have gained traction around June 2019 when CDC officials announced a spate of vape related illnesses across multiple states.
As of December 17, 2019, there has been a reported:
- 2,506 hospitalized cases from across all 50 states and the District of Colombia.
- 54 deaths cases in 27 of the states and the District of Colombia.
Initially described as a disease, the incidents are now being referred to as lung injuries. As all patients have been found to have used mostly black-market vaping THC products and some nicotine vaping products before hospitalization. They are now identified as e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases. The number of cases is reported to have peaked in September 2019 and have since declined, but with new cases still cropping up. Although the CDC’s investigations have not proven conclusive, a few facts have strongly influenced industry stakeholder behavior.
With vitamin E acetate having been found in the broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples of 48 out of 51 samples taken from EVALI patients, many manufacturers of vaping products that make use of this additive have pulled their product from shelves. Health officials in multiple states also reacted to the cannabis vape crisis by issuing advisories to the public recommending they stop vaping. Some like Massachusetts took more severe measures by placing a 4-month ban on all vape sales.
Since the outbreak of the vaping crisis, consumers are left wondering if cannabis vapes are safe, and state regulators and the CDC are advising against their use. It comes as no surprise why this segment of the cannabis industry has seen a steep fall in sales.
- States like California have seen vape sales fall by as much as 6%.
- Others like Nevada and Colorado have also experienced declines that have however now plateaued or are inching back up to pre-July figures.
It’s not all bad news, as other cannabis products have seen a surge in interest during the same period. Several marijuana dispensaries like Harbor Collective MMCC have reported increased sales in edibles and dried buds.
According to an article by Elizabeth Blosfield in the Insurance Journal, insurance experts are concerned that part of the problem may stem from weaknesses in the regulatory framework. With each state setting its own regulations that can change from day to day, it can be difficult for cannabis businesses to keep up in such a dynamic environment. The conflict between state and federal authorities over the legality of marijuana has also created a gap where federal oversight is lacking.
Being transparent has become the name of the game for forward-thinking cannabis businesses. With vitamin E acetate having been identified as a possible cause of the crisis, these businesses have seen a need to be open about what their products are made of and where they come from so consumers can make more informed choices. Technology can play a large role by offering tools and apps that facilitate detection and information sharing between businesses and consumers. Companies like Pax Labs have recently released an app, dubbed Pod ID, that allows anyone buying their product and with an android phone, to look up information on the pod they are interested in. This information includes details such as potency, the type of cannabis strain, state testing results and who the producer is.
Others like Airgraft, a Canadian vape manufacturer, are using hardware to weed out fakes. Their smart pod and device system is helping to deliver clean vapor. The pods contain encrypted chips that communicate with vaping devices to ensure only genuine pods can be consumed on their devices.
With such transparency and traceability, cannabis businesses are holding themselves more accountable. As these new technologies hit the market, consumers can expect to enjoy better information and freedom of choice at their fingertips. Hopefully, these technological advancements, coupled with proper policies, can put a stop to any further crisis.