Cannabis va­p­ing pro­duc­ers con­fi­dent rig­or­ous test­ing will mean fewer con­cerns

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Bill Kauf­mann

CAL­GARY — Mount­ing con­cerns over the some­times lethal im­pacts of va­p­ing aren’t de­ter­ring Cana­dian li­censed cannabis pro­duc­ers ea­ger to mar­ket the prod­ucts.

Some of those in the busi­ness say the rash of deaths of­ten blamed on un­reg­u­lated THC vapes might even con­firm the safety ben­e­fits of re­cre­ational le­gal­iza­tion.

“The il­licit product has no thor­ough test­ing,” said Ryan Hel­lard of Al­berta-based Sun­dial Grow­ers.

“Health Canada puts very strict reg­u­la­tions on oil pro­duc­tion, flower and pack­ag­ing … so the re­sult­ing product comes from a much more vigourous test­ing.”

Vapes are one of the cannabis de­riv­a­tive prod­ucts along with ed­i­bles, top­i­cals and bev­er­ages that will be­come of­fi­cially le­gal in Canada Oct. 17, though they’re not ex­pected to ar­rive on store shelves un­til late De­cem­ber at the ear­li­est.

On Fri­day, the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol (CDC) in the U.S. up­dated its va­p­ing toll fig­ures, re­port­ing al­most 1,100 cases of ill­ness and 20 deaths in that coun­try.

That’s grown from 530 re­ported ill­nesses a week ago, with some pa­tients say­ing they only vaped nico­tine.

No deaths have been re­ported in Canada yet, but provin­cial gov­ern­ments are be­gin­ning to closely mon­i­tor the ac­tiv­ity, with Al­berta an­nounc­ing this week it’s re­view­ing the sit­u­a­tion with a pos­si­bil­ity of bring­ing in reg­u­la­tions.

Hel­lard said Sun­dial will be ready­ing two lines of THC vapes with plans to pro­duce a CBD ver­sion next year, us­ing a 30,000 square-foot ex­trac­tion fa­cil­ity at its main plant in Olds, north of Cal­gary.

“Ob­vi­ously, what’s hap­pen­ing gives us some con­cern, but we put safety first and fore­most,” he said.

Ban­ning vape pens and their car­tridges, said Hel­lard, “would sim­ply keep the black mar­ket alive.”

Black-mar­ket vape car­tridge pro­duc­ers — many of them based in China — have been ac­cused of in­fus­ing their product with con­tam­i­nants like vi­ta­min E ac­etate and chem­i­cals that pro­duce tox­ins when heated.

A spokesman for Canada’s largest li­censed cannabis pro­ducer, Aurora, was re­luc­tant to com­ment on those al­le­ga­tions but said the cri­sis points to the need for strict con­trols.

“Of course, every­body in the world is watch­ing very closely to what’s com­ing out of the sur­veil­lance at the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and it’s im­por­tant that com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions not get ahead of that process,” said Cam Bat­t­ley.

“This kind of sit­u­a­tion mil­i­tates to­wards reg­u­la­tion and we’ve been very good at work­ing

un­der reg­u­la­tion.”

Bat­t­ley said Health Canada which over­sees those con­trols has an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion and given that, com­pa­nies like Aurora are con­tent to fol­low them, par­tic­u­larly af­ter

nearly a year of re­cre­ational le­gal­iza­tion.

“It’s stay the course … our public ser­vants have done an amaz­ing job,” he said.

When asked if the va­p­ing cri­sis gives the il­le­gal side of the trade a black eye, a well-es­tab­lished il­licit Cal­gary op­er­a­tor wouldn’t speak for that sec­tor.

But the man said his busi­ness pro­duces its own vape car­tridges out of lo­cally-made honey oil, or highly-re­fined hashish ex­tract, with­out any con­tam­i­nants.

“We’re stay­ing away from any­thing like (con­tam­i­nated vapes) ... it’s 100 per cent honey oil,” said Greg, who wouldn’t give his last name.

On its web­site, Health Canada says a fed­eral task group has been formed to in­ves­ti­gate pul­monary ill­nesses pos­si­bly re­lated to va­p­ing, and said the long-term im­pacts of the prac­tice, whether it’s un­der reg­u­lated con­di­tions or not, isn’t yet known.

“Cana­di­ans are re­minded that the pur­chase of va­p­ing prod­ucts out­side the le­gal mar­ket may cre­ate ad­di­tional risk as these prod­ucts are un­reg­u­lated and po­ten­tially un­safe, and thereby pose a risk to health and safety,” it states.


Va­p­ing de­vices are shown at a cannabis trade show in Los An­ge­les in Septem­ber.

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