Oregon Bans Vitamin E Acetate From Cannabis Vape Cartridges

Last week I wrote a couple of blogs about cannabis vape cartridges, including whether Oregon should follow Michigan’s lead and ban vitamin E acetate from the market after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) named the substance as the most likely culprit behind over 40 deaths and 2,000 illnesses nationwide. On Friday, state regulators announced the ban on the ingredient. OPB reported on the decision by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission:

Based on the CDC’s findings, the OLCC has determined that vitamin E acetate is an “adulterant,” or an ingredient which is “foreign, inferior, poisonous or deleterious.”

This action by the commission supports the public health finding. The ingredient would still be allowed in non-inhaled products such as lotions and edibles.

“We’re making it clear that to protect consumer health we will vigorously scrutinize what goes into marijuana products sold in Oregon’s legal marketplace,” Steve Marks, OLCC executive director, said in a news release. “The commission is taking steps with our regulatory partners to put in place additional consumer safeguards.”

Erin Purchase, Director of Operations of Kind Leaf and a member of Oregon’s new formed Vaping Public Health Workgroup, stated, “I am happy to see that the OLCC has taken the first steps in ensuring consumer safety by banning Vitamin E Acetate. I hope that our state regulators take additional steps by requiring additives to be labeled on the packages. Perhaps with further studies and clarifications the importance of transparent labeling will be revealed.”

Personally, I applaud this decision of the OLCC and am proud of Kind Leaf and other good actors in the Oregon market that have been proactive and are working towards more safety precautions and labeling transparency. The ability to adapt to new information with new industry norms and regulations is just one of the examples why legalization is a much better policy than prohibition. It’s possible that the cannabis industry will need to adapt again as the CDC continues to study the vaping issue to determine if any other factors besides vitamin E acetate are involved, as The Washington Post reports:

Investigators are also trying to find out what other toxins might be flowing into people’s lungs as they vape. Federal health officials have said the outbreak may have more than one cause.

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“We’ll be looking to see if we get anything unusual,” (the CDC’s Jim) Pirkle said. Most of the sick patients vaped multiple products, including those containing THC. “It could be that only one of the products causes disease and the others did not. But we don’t know which one, so we still have to analyze all of them.”

 

Scientists hope to have “a good chunk” of results within about six weeks, he said.

Stay tuned as we keep you posted on the latest science, regulations, and industry decisions impacting consumer safety. Here is the OLCC’s full announcement on the banning of vitamin E acetate from cannabis vape cartridges:

November 22, 2019

OLCC Affirms Authority to Prohibit Marijuana Adulterants

Ban Vitamin E Acetate from Marijuana Vaping Products

Portland, OR —  At its monthly meeting on November 21, 2019, the Commissioners of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission affirmed the OLCC’s existing authority to ban adulterants, such as Vitamin E acetate, from inclusion in marijuana products.  The Commission also approved eight marijuana violation stipulated settlement agreements.

Public health investigators with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have identified Vitamin E acetate as a potential culprit in the national vaping respiratory illness outbreak.  Forty-two people, including two in Oregon, have died from the illness.  More than 2,100 individuals have been afflicted with the lung injury, including 18 Oregonians.

Previously the OLCC had not expressly allowed or banned Vitamin E acetate from being mixed into marijuana vaping products.  Ingredients for marijuana products are already screened as part of the OLCC’s packaging and labeling pre-approval process.  The Commission’s action supports both the public health finding and the agency’s ability to ban Vitamin E acetate.

“We’re making it clear that to protect consumer health we will vigorously scrutinize what goes into marijuana products sold in Oregon’s legal marketplace,” said Steve Marks, OLCC Executive Director.  “The Commission is taking steps with our regulatory partners to put in place additional consumer safeguards.  Just this week we discussed with the legislature establishing a state-run reference lab so that regulators can test marijuana products in an effort to better protect consumers.”

Under Oregon law, the OLCC can prohibit recreational marijuana licensees from selling a marijuana item that contains “injurious or adulterated” ingredients. See ORS 475B.232(2) for reference.

Under existing OLCC administrative rules “adulterated” is defined to mean in part “a foreign, inferior, poisonous or deleterious ingredient or substance that renders the marijuana item injurious to health.  See OAR 845-025-1015(2) for reference.  Based upon the CDC finding, the OLCC has determined that Vitamin E acetate is an adulterant.

Vitamin E acetate may continue to be included in non-inhaled marijuana products, such as lotions and edibles, so long as its introduction into those products meets all other OLCC requirements.