Ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb: Vaping-related lung injuries ‘correlated with the use of THC’

The mainstream media has been grossly negligent in its coverage of the months-long scandal surrounding “vaping-related” lung injuries, but things may be slowly beginning to change.  In a Monday television appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb came to the defense of conventional nicotine-based vaping products.  He also clearly states that Black Market THC-infused cartridges – not nicotine-based vapes - are to blame for the respiratory disease outbreak.

“Now it seems clear that a lot of these vaping-related illnesses – if not all of them - are corelated with the use of THC vapes. So, the second-most common form of delivering THC – the active ingredient of marijuana – right now is vaping the liquid itself, not burning the flower.  Burning the flower is #1. Vaping the liquid is actually #2 right now, not far behind, in terms of what consumers are doing.”

Gottlieb even takes the time to explain why these illegal drug rings are putting so much THC oil into their contraband products, something that many average vapers are still wondering about themselves.  Apparently, THC oils are typically very thin and watery compared to the vegetable glycerin of traditional nicotine vapes.  And in the eyes of a marijuana-vaping consumer, thicker juices are more appealing. 

“And it now appears that some of these people that are selling these (THC-enhanced) vapes are mixing oils into them to increase their viscosity because the thickness of the oil is seem as a measurable trait in terms of how potent it is. So that putting oils in there that shouldn’t be in there, and those oils are damaging people’s lungs.”
“The best analysis that we have so far is out of the states of Illinois and Wisconsin in which we’ve looked very closely at the cases that they’ve reported in those states and fully 80 percent of the people in those situations had reported vaping THC.  You could surmise that there’s probably under-reporting 5-10 percent of people who use THC don’t want to self-report, especially when they are in the throes of an acute illness.”

The interview progresses into the area of government regulation.  Gottlieb explains that while several states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the federal government still considers cannabis to be an illegal substance.  As a compromise, federal law enforcement agencies simply choose to look the other way, essentially choosing to ignore the federal statutes governing marijuana altogether, at least in those states which have already legalized it.

Gottlieb calls for new law allowing federal regulation of cannabis

Unfortunately, it is this contradiction in state and federal laws that prevents federal regulatory agencies like the FDA from overseeing these state-sanctioned marijuana industries.  After all, how can the FDA regulate a product that it also deems illegal?  According to Gottlieb, the legalized marijuana industry is “basically the Wild West of unregulated products, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that.’ 

Gottlieb acknowledges that a federal law legalizing marijuana would be too controversial.  As a possible work-around solution to the regulation problem, he suggests that Congress simply pass a new federal law that allows federal authorities to provide regulatory oversight in those states which legalize the cannabis industry.   If not, then the public health risks of Black Market THC vapes can never be adequately controlled. 

Related Article:  GOP commentator Noah Rothman blasts Trump’s proposed vaping ban as ‘boneheaded’ on MSNBC

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