Have We Reached Peak Stupidity on the Vaping "Crisis" Yet? Here's What We Think & What We Know

BB_NEW_BLOG_LOGO_JULY2019.png

Well, we’d say that we have reached peak stupidity in this entire vaping “epidemic”, but we would probably be proven wrong before we got this article up on the site. From the top of our federal government right on down the line, ignorance and misinformation are steering the debate about how to curb the sudden string of hundreds of cases of vaping related lung ailments, including seven people dead here in the U.S. just in the past few weeks.

Maybe the biggest misconception of all is that this is just a “black market” problem and that as long as you are getting your e-juice or cannabis oil from a legit smoke shop or dispensary, that you’re guaranteed a safe product.

The fact of the matter is that regulations on nicotine-based vape juice are virtually non-existent, and while mandatory lab testing on legal cannabis-based products may flag for metals, molds, pesticides, or residual solvents, none of those have been singled out as suspects in these recent deaths.

Watching normally sleepy, unmotivated politicians shake off their cobwebs over this issue has been frustrating for a number of reasons so we are going to lay out what we know so far alongside the propaganda we’ve been fed, and even a juicy conspiracy theory to try to tie it all together as this story continues to (d)evolve.

WELL THAT SURE ESCALATED QUICKLY

ecig-illustration.jpg

Electronic cigarettes and the nicotine-laced “juice” that is loaded into them have been on the market for well over a decade. They faced immense and immediate backlash from skeptical worry-warts who warned that nobody knew how this new delivery method would affect peoples’ health in the long term – much of that opposition being funded by tobacco companies who recognized the threat that this new method posed on their toxic business model.

Over the past 10+ years, however, e-cigs have proven to be an effective and healthier alternative to actual tobacco use and, until very recently, had failed to make the scary headlines that we were warned about… the ones we are seeing now.

Using a vaporizer pen to puff on cannabis oil is also about a decade long phenomena at this point, as is dabbing, and the tech on both has come a long way since those early days, as has the quality and availability of the oil.

For all those years, vape peeps were blowing dragon-like clouds, dabbers were dropping 1g globs on red hot nails, and pre-filled THC-rich vape carts rapidly outpaced all other forms of consumption especially among people new to cannabis. No epidemics, no press conferences, and no mysterious illnesses or deaths.

So why now? Let’s take a look at the seven reported deaths so far.

August 23rd, 2019 – An Illinois man whose name and age were withheld died after using a “vaping device”, no further details were given as to what he was vaping
September 5th, 2019 – A person in Oregon whose age and gender has been kept anonymous died of this mysterious acute respiratory illness after vaping cannabis oil allegedly purchased from a state-sanctioned retail dispensary, the first such case reported in the nation
September 6th, 2019 – A 55 year old Los Angeles County resident with a history of health problems died after using a vape pen. Officials would not comment on his case in particular but said that a “majority” of the dozen or so related illnesses in the county involved the vaping of THC/cannabis products
September 6th, 2019 – An adult male in Indiana died after being hospitalized for shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vomiting said to be related to his vaping habit
September 6th, 2019 – A 65 year old Minnesota man with a history of lung problems died after complications following the repeated use of “illicit” THC-containing vape carts
September 10th, 2019 – A 50 year old woman in Kansas with a history of health problems died allegedly within one week of trying an e-cig for the first time
September 17th, 2019 – Health officials in Tulare, CA announce that a 40 year old man died this past weekend of the same mysterious severe acute lung failure seen in 36 states and counting

It’s pretty remarkable that with a decade or more of public guinea pigging of these mostly self-regulated products, all of this headline-grabbing drama has gone down in the matter of less than a month. We’ll get to that in a minute, though.

KNEES WILL BE KNEES & JERKS WILL BE JERKS

As these dusty ass politicians awake from their perpetual slumber to talk once again about bans and prohibition instead of research and solutions, the easiest and most common rebuttal to it all is to draw the comparison to actual tobacco products like cigarettes which kill nearly half a million people every single year here in the U.S. and ask where the outrage is over that.

To keep things in perspective, though, we have to admit that cigarettes do not typically act that fast or hospitalize younger users with the frequency we are suddenly seeing with vaping. Something stinks here for sure, even worse than that cloud of Blueberry Razzmatazz that hipster just exhaled, so in an ideal democracy we’d welcome lawmakers into the discussion. Yeah, well, unfortunately we do not live in an ideal democracy, do we?

Instead, here is a brief recap of some of the “solutions” that have been presented so far by a bunch of people who think e-cigs are some form of witchcraft and that cannabis is the lettuce of the devil.

Our fearless leader, the President of the United States, addressed the nation and the world to announce that his big fix would be to ban all “flavored” e-cig products. In a Freudian slip, he pointed out that the First Lady has a son who she warns of the dangers of such products. (PS. It’s his son too…) In yet another classic Trump soundbite that will live on forever, he mimicked a phantom adolescent youth in his head and said, “Mom, I wanna vape!”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed Trump’s lead and also announced that the Empire State would be banning flavored e-cig products, claiming that they are only made for kids. According to Cuomo, “No one can say long-term use of vaping — where you’re inhaling steam and chemicals deep into your lungs — is healthy.”

Well, Gov’nah, Public Health England reports that vaping nicotine is 95% safer than smoking tobacco. You see, it’s not like people are going to vape or nothing. They vape for the buzz, not the fucking mango flavor. Take away the vape, there are other ways to get the buzz, like an actual cigarette which teens have abused for decades and which account for 98% of all tobacco-related deaths. That is the inevitable result of prohibiting anything from booze to abortion – people will still get it, just in a much more dangerous way.

Following this shitty form of leadership as it continues to flow downhill, California’s governor Gavin Newsom vowed this week to allocate $20 million to “confront the growing youth epidemic and health risks linked to vaping” in the state.

“With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis,” says Gov. Newsom. “There is a broad and bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking to protect our youth, and we are committed to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to build on these executive actions and put forward a strong tobacco reform package in 2020.”

So, they’re going to spend twenty mill on more billboards and Facebook ads? The funds allegedly come in part from legal cannabis tax revenues. Is that what voters approved with Prop 64, that cannabis tax dollars help fund a ‘tobacco reform package’? 

Early investigations have revealed that Vitamin E Acetate has been found in many of the samples pulled from suspect vape cartridges. The leading theory is that this fatty compound is able to pass through the extremely fine membrane of your lungs when vaporized, but once inside it cools and thickens like bacon grease to clog delicate respiratory pathways.

California’s cannabis market has the strictest requirements in the country, if not the world, but labs are not required to test for additives like Vitamin E, and so even legal cannabis-based vape carts could potentially have this questionable ingredient lurking within.

Gov. Newsom could call for a moratorium on the use of such ingredients and mandate that labs identify any presence of them until more is known, likely for far less than $20,000,000.

We are being led to believe that seven people have died in 3½ weeks but the best immediate solution is an educational campaign aimed at the youth? Reminder: Though there are plenty of kids under the age of 18 laid up in bed right now feeling like shit due to vaping, not one of the seven deaths listed above were minors.

A QUICK NOTE ON VITAMIN E BEFORE WE GO FULL ALEX JONES

Cannabis-Distillate-1.png

There are exceptions to any rule, but by and large, most cannabis-based vape pen cartridges are filled with cannabis oil distillate. Distillate is produced from dark and undesirable crude forms of cannabis oil which are refined through the distillation process and transformed into golden clear goo typically ultra-high in THC but devoid of other cannabinoids and virtually all terpenes (flavor).

In its “raw” form, not only is the flavor of distillate (or lack of) far from ideal, but the consistency is often too thick to properly vaporize in the average vape cart. To enhance this bland product and to give it diversity (assign strain names), terpenes are added back into the distillate. These terps, in addition to a splash of MCT oil can reduce that viscosity to the point where the oil will flow more easily, but can often leave the end product looking “cut” even to the untrained eye of the consumer. AND IT IS CUT. Every drop of terps or MCT is one less drop of THC-laden distillate in your 1g cart, but it doesn’t end there. Vitamin E Acetate is a thickener, added back into this soup that now resembles anything but a cannabis plant, to tighten the consistency of the oil back up a bit. How much of each are you inhaling? Good luck figuring that out.

We feel that the reason why we are just now seeing a widespread string of illnesses and even deaths is that too many manufacturers of both e-juices and cannabis vape carts have been constantly tweeking their formulas in attempts to fool customers into paying more for less and that their experiment finally went awry.  

Many of the leading brands that manufacture pre-filled vape carts have released statements to affirm that they do not add any diluents like Vitamin E to their product and never will. Fortunately, even though the state of California has not yet required it, proactive testing labs like Cannasafe here in Los Angeles are already offering the service. All dispensaries considering giving shelf space to pre-filled vape carts should require a COA from an accredited lab like Cannasafe showing all levels of such secondary additives, artificial terpenes included.

If you are still buying weed carts on the streets, you’re pretty much rolling the dice with every rip unless you personally know the dude filling them and quite literally trust him with your life.

These inept politicians could end the use of diluents and thickening agents in regulated cannabis markets overnight. Even if they are not found to be the ultimate cause of the illnesses and deaths we’re seeing, a temporary moratorium on them only benefits consumers. Plenty of reputable brands out there are making live resin carts with nothing artificial reintroduced, and they work great, shell out a few extra bucks for those and breathe easier knowing that you are several steps closer to the plant.

Like we said, it is not uncommon for unaltered distillate to test at 90%+ THC, so read the labels next time you are shopping for a distillate cart. Anything below let’s say 85% should raise a red flag for you. The more the oil is cut with any secondary substance, the lower the THC percentage will be, right? You’ll find distillate carts on the market with 65-75% THC listed on the package and no other cannabinoids, so what’s the rest?  Consumers need to know and brands need to be compelled to disclose exact ingredients.

OK TIME FOR THE TIN FOIL HAT

As we have tried to establish throughout this article, this issue is changing by the day and what info we currently have leaves us with more questions than answers.

Our leading theory is the Vitamin E Scheme, or Acetates & Assholes… you pick the title you like best. As you probably know, counterfeit vape packaging and parts are readily available on shelves in Downtown LA or just a click away on Alibaba or Amazon. We’re willing to bet that these same totally unregulated outlets started offering suspect additives relatively recently as well and that the consequences of that are now coming to light.

vape-small.jpg

But what if…

Ok doesn’t it seem at least a little suspicious that all of these deaths have occurred only in America? That sort of lines up with our theory above, but it’s still a bit odd considering that the websites we mentioned will ship anywhere, as will countless cart-hustling trap lords. Not to mention, this illness is not exclusive to vaping cannabis oil, so it seems hard to believe that nobody anywhere else in the world has made a headline like this yet.

Now if you were a chaos agent for the Big Tobacco machine, what better way to knock down your two biggest rivals with one shot? We’ve got nicotine consumers blaming cannabis consumers and vice versa. Every city, state, or global superpower that bans all flavored vape products delivers a massive financial victory back to the tobacco companies. Even if you eliminate Mango Juul pods from every high school campus in America, watch Marlboro stock prices soar.

People really are sick, and some really are dead. Not even Alex Jones would claim that Marlboro orchestrated it all as an attack on competitors, but is it really all that far-fetched to believe that the wall-to-wall media coverage about it and the sudden leap to action by a do-nothing government may be sparked at least in part by the influence that Big Tobacco has bought and paid for over the decades?

1,300 Americans will die today from cigarettes and it is more important than ever to remember and reiterate that zero people will die today, or any day, from cannabis itself.