Washington State Bans Vitamin E Acetate in Vape Products
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The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has adopted a new emergency rule banning the sale of any vapor products containing vitamin E acetate.
In a second emergency rule issued in the same bulletin, the LCB introduced new requirements for manufacturers of all THC containing products, which necessitate manufacturers to fully disclose all compounds used in the production of their products as well as their sources.
Why all this fuss over a vitamin?
Last fall, a “vaping crisis” hit the United States. By mid-October nearly 1,500 people had been hospitalized with vaping-related lung injuries, with 33 people sadly losing their lives as a result. According to latest available figures, e-cigarette or vape product associated lung injury (EVALI) has now resulted in over 2,800 hospitalizations and 68 confirmed deaths.
Investigators very quickly determined these lung injuries to be related to the patients’ use of vape products and e-cigarettes, but it would require further scientific analysis to determine exactly that was to blame for these adverse health effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration issued consumer guidance advising the public to stay away from all vape products containing THC, as leading voices in cannabis science continued to argue that legal THC products were not the problem – unproven additives in illicit market products were.
Subsequent laboratory studies on EVALI patients and healthy control groups proved that vitamin E acetate, a diluent thickener commonly used in illicit market vape cartridges, was strongly associated with the lung injury crisis.
Interestingly, vitamin E acetate is also used as an additive in cosmetics and vitamin supplements as it is considered perfectly safe to ingest orally. However, its safety had never been evaluated for inhalation, and it is now thought that the lung injuries seen with EVALI are largely a result of inhaling vaporized vitamin E acetate.
Washington State moves to ban vitamin E acetate
After the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially identified vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” and issued recommendations for the compound to not be added to any vape products, legislators in Washington state attempted to ban the compound completely, but were unsuccessful.
“During the 2020 legislative session, the governor submitted request legislation (SB 6254) aimed at increasing regulation of vapor products in Washington,” reads an LCB memorandum on the new changes. “The bill included a ban of vitamin E acetate, however the legislature failed to pass SB 6254.”
Though unable to directly ban vitamin E acetate, the state legislature instead passed HB 2826 in March 2020, which gave the LCB adequate authority to ban any substance that the Department of Health, or any other appropriate authority, deemed a substance that “may pose a risk to public health.”
Vitamin E acetate is the first compound to be banned using these new regulatory powers.
LCB to expand cannabis testing requirements
Also included in the bulletin was information regarding proposed rulemaking on cannabis quality control testing. The rule making looks to improve the state’s current “Marijuana Quality Assurance testing and Product Requirements” by phasing in new regulations by September 2021.
“Current testing requirements for recreational marijuana are intended to ensure that products for sale are safe and have accurate potency levels. However, Washington state recreational marijuana products are not required to be tested for pesticides and heavy metals, and although not precluded from doing so, many producers and processors do not test for either,” reads a new LCB memorandum on the issue.
“Washington State is the only state with both recreational and medical programs that does not require such testing for all products,” the memo highlighted.
The new cannabis testing rules will require all cannabis that is produced in the state to be tested for the presence of pesticide residues and heavy metal contaminants. These new additions to the state’s cannabis regulations have been generally very well accepted, but according to some in the local cannabis space, these changes have also been long overdue.
“This is an impressive body of rule-making,” said Jim MacRae, a Washington state cannabis activist, to Ganjapreneur.
“I applaud the Board working to protect cannabis consumers in the state, but they’ve known about the pesticide problem for years[…], test results are ‘faith-based,’ meaning they don’t have a way to reliably attach test results to actual cannabis batches,” said MacRae. “I’m also wondering why it will take a year to implement the new testing rules when they acted on vitamin E acetate so quickly.”