With the recent tragic outbreaks of illnesses and even deaths associated with vaping, cannabis companies are racing to better understand the impacts of consumer usage and reinforce measures to ensure their products are consistent in quality. Cannabis companies will be wise to use this life and health issue as an opportunity to once more silence the skeptics with a doubled-down commitment to vaping quality control, transparency and traceability. Here are some facts to be aware of, and some tips for navigating this tenuous time.
The Cannabis Black Market
It’s important for us to recognize that many of the cannabis-related cases appear to be linked to the purchase and consumption of products from illicit dealers and unlicensed dispensaries. Bypassing regulatory compliance, unlawful operators can and do include additives—such as vitamin E acetate or even cyanide—with the (false) hope of improving shelf life. Unfortunately, the preservatives may be a factor in causing the serious lung damage being reported. We offer two cautions regarding the cannabis black market:
1. Unlicensed operations: Always purchase your products from a licensed operation. This can be difficult to assess, especially with the advent of fake dispensaries popping up in California. If you ever feel uncomfortable in a dispensary, walk away. Legal dispensaries are businesses just like any other; the store front should feel professional and welcoming while you’re shopping. If there are boards on the windows, dusty merchandise, a lack of childproofing packaging (a California mandate as of July 1), the taxes are off, and the prices oddly low, you’re probably in an unlicensed shop. If you don’t feel confident about what you’re buying and putting in your body, it’s simply not worth the risk. Your health and safety are a much higher priority.
2. Counterfeit brands: Many large legitimate brands are reporting issues with illegal operators using their labels to sell unlicensed, counterfeit products. A few ways to spot bootlegged products include a lack of lab batch testing information, no childproofing, state government warnings, and a lack of a manufacturing source and date. For more information and a list of brands that have been affected, go here.
Back the Claims with Quality
While states differ on cannabis product testing requirements, companies can use this (hopefully brief) crisis as an opportunity to highlight their own vaping quality control practices and promote their own cultures of integrity—differentiating themselves from the competition. Mindful consumers are beginning to demand higher levels of quality and accountability from their brands.
Many brands make statements of using only “quality ingredients” or “high tech processes,” but what is the science behind those claims? Dig deeper into these generic claims. How are companies ensuring they have the systems and processes in place to deliver consistent product to the end consumer? What levels of traceability exist to continually improve that process and assure operational excellence? What systems are in place to ensure that if anything happens, the company can find the problem, trace it and fix it? What is being done to evaluate the quality of the products before they arrive on a store shelf?
Until regulation on vaping quality control reaches an appropriate and consistent level, consumers will have to take on greater responsibility to evaluate what and from whom they buy—it’s quite literally a life-safety issue.