December 7, 2021 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Vaping cannabis in lieu of smoking it has gone from a trend that many thought would dissipate to a lifestyle for millions. For medical cannabis patients, vaping provides quick-onset effects and is the preferred method of medicating for many. As the vape crisis swept across the world in 2019, it brought with it many concerns for those who rely on vaping to treat various medical ailments. It also started raising many questions among the millions of individuals who vape cannabis recreationally.
In October 2019 Veriheal reported that there had been over 1,300 vape-related illnesses across the United States year to date, 29 of which resulted in fatalities. At that time the vape and cannabis industries had seen a 15% revenue decrease in a two-month period as a result of this crisis, despite the illegal market being to blame for the crisis at hand. This has now led to Colorado introducing new standards for the cannabis industry in relation to the production of vape devices and cartridges.
The Colorado Marijuana Rules (1 CCR 212-3) include subsection (C)(5)(b), which states that as of Jan. 1, 2022, “Each
Harvest Batch and Production Batch of Regulated Marijuana Concentrate in a Vaporized Delivery Device must be tested for metals contamination via emissions testing by a Regulated Marijuana Testing Facility…”
Wait…There Could Be Metal in My Vape?
The thought of metals lurking in your vape pens is a scary thought, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are actually many unintentional ways that metal contaminants can end up in vape pens. During the cultivation and manufacturing of vape products, they can be exposed to heavy metal contaminants such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and lead. These can come from the soil and water used during cultivation, the packaging equipment, and the device material, among other things.
With vapes, the very utilization of the device and cartridge (which holds the cannabis concentrate) can cause reactions leading to contaminations that might not have otherwise been present. This is a result of heat being introduced when a vape device is utilized. What this means is that standard tests could show no heavy metal contaminants, but chemical reactions may occur when heat is applied. This is something that emissions testing can help to prevent.
What Is Emissions Testing?
Regulated markets like Colorado have always required testing on hemp- and cannabis-derived products. However, the vape tests previously required in Colorado were done specifically on the vape oil itself, testing for things like solvents, terpene and cannabinoid content, and common contaminants. Emissions testing is conducted on vape cartridge aerosol, which is the result of applying heat to the vape product. This mimics what the consumer would be inhaling when vaping the product, allowing for contaminants from chemical reactions to be seen and handled.
Colorado’s new regulations also require that all vape cartridges be labeled with an expiration date. These expiration dates are identified based on the current scientific understanding of the shelf stability of cannabis vape oils. Blinc Group Inc., along with PAX Labs and the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturers Association, recently applauded the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division for adopting these new testing standards. In a press release, Echo Rufer, head of biocompatibility and toxicology at PAX Labs, stated:
“We’re pleased to see Colorado continue to adopt industry-leading cannabis policy, grounded in research and science. This change marks a common sense evolution of testing protocols that not only supports increased consumer safety, but further separates the regulated market from the illicit one. As cannabis products continue to evolve, our testing methods must as well, and we see both aerosol testing and shelf stability testing as two critical pieces of that.”
These types of testing are not unique to the cannabis industry; the nicotine-based vaping industry has long been complying with regulations and standards such as testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The emissions testing for VOCs, heavy metals, carbonyl compounds, and others in cannabis vape products will likely be built upon the same models utilized in the nicotine e-cigarette market.
Protecting Yourself Starts With Education
If you prefer to consume your cannabis using vape pens, don’t fret—there are safe ways to do so. The 2019 E-Cigarette or Vaping-Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) outbreak was primarily fueled by the existence of dangerous additives in cannabis vaping oils, including vitamin E acetate and phytol. These agents, used for thickening and/or flavor-boosting, are not necessarily harmful on their own but have been found to cause lung injury when inhaled.
As long as you purchase your vape devices and cartridges from licensed, state-legal dispensaries, you shouldn’t run into any problems. The real culprits behind vaping-related illnesses are illegal market dealers who sell these hazardous products to unsuspecting consumers. Products from state dispensaries are regulated and tested to ensure purity, but you should still check for a product’s batch-specific product testing information to be on the safe side. Reputable cannabis companies will always provide testing results for their concentrates.
Cannabis vape pens are still a relatively new product, and experts are still working to make these products as harmless as possible for consumers. If more states follow Colorado’s lead in requiring emissions testing on vape products, the practice of vaping cannabis will become safer than ever before.
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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