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Elizabeth Hollin's Within the Mind of a Budtender - December 2019

Licensed and compliant. What does that mean? It means that you are cooperating with the laws necessary to operate. Call it what you will, but I’ll continue to call it, in most cases, good business. In the Michigan cannabis industry, it means knowing that your products are clean, safe, and accurately dosed to whatever degree…but it also means dealing with the regulatory turbulence. After all, this industry still has much to learn.

Progress has never been easy. When we started the fight for legality so long ago, we knew it would be a long and difficult path. Often, for the sake of moving forward, you have to give a little to get a little. Sacrifice and cooperation.
On the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 2019 some of this sacrifice and cooperation came into play when LARA and the MRA released an emergency regulatory bulletin that temporarily suspended the sale of cannabis vaping cartridges with the purpose of inhalation at any licensed provisioning center, effective immediately, until new testing is completed.

By this point, I’d be genuinely surprised if word of the vaping crisis hasn’t reached your ears. Hundreds of lung illnesses reported across the country, tens here in Michigan, and multiple fatalities. Michigan has, unfortunately, a claim to at least one of those deaths. There was also recent news made when a Michigan teen had to undergo a double lung transplant due to the irreversible vaping related damage. Though he is expected to recover, it has no doubt changed his life, and he may not be the last.

Vitamin E Acetate is believed to be the culprit connecting these illnesses. Often used as an additive in foot and face creams for its great skincare properties, there is very little research in regards to its inhalation. Doctors have linked lipids (oils) in the lungs to illnesses for quite some time now since they tend to coat the lining of your lungs, and they seem to be currently overflowing in the black market. How many people do you know that vape? How many times do you see one pulled out at a party, after dinner, or on a quick break?

Type into your browser and do a quick search for anything like ‘ccell’ or ‘Dank Vape’ and you’ll see just how easy, and lucrative, it can be to start selling black market vape carts. Multiple investigations across the country have shown up to 90% of unlicensed product can contain the thickener Vitamin E Acetate that started to sweep the market in 2018, replacing what had been PGs and VGs. Not only that, but those bulk carts that can be bought so cheaply? They may contain lead, aluminum, formaldehyde, and more. Not exactly the things I’d like to have coating my lungs.

With the upcoming recreational market, and the current amount of medical users depending on their choice of medicating, vaping, I definitely think that this could have been handled far differently on the licensed side. The magnitude of investigations into the vaping crisis have linked the cause primarily to illicit carts. The items that you should not be finding in a licensed and compliant provisioning center. All major licensed Michigan players have publicly released statements in regards to the purity of their products. This new regulation has effectively taken the licensed products out of the hands of the patients and could push them back into the black market…where the root of the problem seems to be stemming from in the first place.

With that being said, I do stand behind the testing regulations 100%. Too many times I’ve had headaches, bad coughs, and a general feeling of sickness in the past from bad stuff. As we’re seeing across the country, things can get far worse from simply not being accurately informed about what’s in your product.

I’ve learned that off a tested 50mg distillate edible, I can achieve a nice high (I know, a bit of a light weight in the long term user category). When I checked out an unlicensed local spot and picked up an inexpensive 200mg edible that I was told was made with distillate, I was a bit disappointed when I ate ¾ of it and didn’t get so much as a light buzz (not saying I expected too much, because I had assumed from the beginning that it probably wouldn’t be accurately labeled). Now imagine you’re being told that the vape cartridge you are being shown is 100% Organic, High THC, with No Additives. It comes in a nice fancy looking box, and it has little warning labels on it. Must be legit right? Now go get that cart tested. Let me know if those results come back all organic, no additives. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

From licensed prices, to regulatory procedure there are a lot of aspects of the Michigan cannabis market that need to be improved upon, but our citizens safety should always be #1. You are inhaling these products. You are purchasing this product, from goodness knows where, heating it up, and taking a fat puff. Coating your lungs. Not too long ago we couldn’t believe kids were munching on Tide Pods, and now we think it’s crazy to think that the pen you got from your buddy, Kevin, may not be the purest thing on the market?

Testing, and purity standards absolutely need to be in place for safeties sake. Regulation, not prohibition. Is this the most popular opinion? Who knows, but I’m not willing to risk the life of thousands of individuals simply to make some cash. Something to keep in mind while you’re doing your last minute Christmas shopping for your cannafam.

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