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Md. cannabis commission says no recall on vaping products

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 file photo, a customer blows a cloud of smoke from a vape pipe at a local shop in Richmond, Va. Although e-cigarettes aren’t considered as risky as regular cigarettes, new research published Monday, May 27, 2019, finds a clue that their flavorings may be bad for the heart. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

State regulators say they cannot go beyond issuing a public warning about the potential hazards of vaping when using medical cannabis products. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

ANNAPOLIS — Members of the state’s commission on medical cannabis said they continue to investigate concerns about toxic heavy metals in some products used in vaping but said they will not issue a recall.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission issued a public warning about the potential hazard and announced new testing requirements late Friday afternoon. Some patients complained Tuesday that the commission was slow to alert patients and isn’t doing enough to ensure their safety.

“One email saying these might not be the safest thing isn’t really looking out for patient safety when people are taking this medication,” said Caitlin Orman, 26, who moved from Texas to Maryland to avail herself of the state’s medical cannabis program. “If we potentially had lead contamination in Tylenol it would be immediately recalled. Same with food products. So why is (medical) cannabis any different?”

Concerns about lead and other heavy metal toxins in medical cannabis vaping products stem from a 2018 study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Health. Researchers tested e-cigarette devices of 56 patients and “found that significant numbers of the devices generated aerosols with potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese and or nickel.”

The inhalation of toxic chemicals are linked to lung, liver, immune system, cardiovascular and brain damage, and some forms of cancer, according to the report.

State cannabis commission officials said they issued the warning on Friday following concerns raised in other states, including California and Michigan. They also ordered immediate testing of vaping products before they can be sold for use by patients with medical cannabis prescriptions.

William Tilburg, director of policy and government relations for the Maryland Cannabis Commission, said trace amounts of lead — lower than what the state deems unsafe — were found in some pre-sale samples of vaping liquid. The commission also tested samples of some products already in the possession of patients — something the commission typically does not do.

“There were a couple of these with (lead) levels exceeding those established by the state for what is permissible within the product,” Tilburg said. “The advisory is based on this initial determination. We don’t have the ability to require or mandate testing once it’s been sold to a patient so that’s difficult to do.”

Tilburg said some of the contamination concerns come from the heating coils in the e-cigarette devices that are used to turn the liquid into a vapor the patient inhales rather than smokes as well as some metal vials used to hold the liquid inside the device.

The warning to Maryland patients using vaping devices to deliver medical cannabis doses does not tell patients to stop using the products. The commission has not issued a recall.

“Potential is not the legal standard that authorizes the commission to remove items from the market, to recall them,” said Tilburg. ” … We don’t have an evidentiary basis to recall products within our regulations at this time.”




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