FAQs about the Safety of Vaporizing Cannabis Oils

In recent weeks, there have been reports of adolescents who experienced difficulty breathing after “vaping” e-cigarettes. As of August 27, 2019 the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported 215 possible cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping reported by 25 states. None of the cases were in Hawaiʻi.

Do these cases have anything in common?
The only commonality is that the affected patients reported using vaporizing products that contained either nicotine and/or THC. Did anyone die? Yes, one death was reported. Other patients were hospitalized and some were put on ventilators.

What are the symptoms of the vape-related lung disease?
Those affected reported a gradual onset of symptoms, including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, while others have reported experiencing fever or fatigue.

What caused their injuries?
The investigation is ongoing, but some of the additives commonly found in “e-cigarette juice” were never designed to be vaped. When subjected to high temperatures, these substances can break down into a variety of toxic compounds.

Some of those affected were reportedly using THC in their vape products, why were they sickened?
The investigation is ongoing, but the CDC’s focus is shifting to chemicals often used by black-market manufacturers to make oils and cartridges containing THC. This includes solvents used to extract THC from the plant. There are also reports of consumers refilling e-cigarette cartridges with home-made concoctions containing THC. Filled cartridges and cannabis oils sold on the street may also contain unsafe additives. There are also documented instances of black market “fake marijuana” vape pens that contain synthetic cannabinoids that are potentially harmful or fatal. More information is needed to determine exactly what is causing the respiratory illnesses.

Does Maui Grown Therapies use additives in any of its cannabis products?
No. Never. Maui Grown Therapies uses an advanced supercritical CO2 extraction system to safely extract cannabinoids, terpenes and other natural bioactive compounds from cannabis flowers cultivated in our production center. The resulting extracts are pure and contain no residual solvents, or additives of any kind, and are therefore safe for human consumption.

What is a terpene?
It is a plant essential oil. The cannabis plant produces about 100 of them in different combinations and concentrations depending upon the strain. It is believed that terpenes in cannabis may be responsible for some of the individual effects noted between different strains.

Are Maui Grown Therapies products lab tested?
Yes. All of Hawaiʻi’s licensed medical cannabis dispensaries are required by law to submit every batch of flower or manufactured product for analysis by a third-party lab regulated by the State. This mandatory analysis includes screening for the presence of residual solvents, artificial additives and other contaminants. The State of Hawai’i does not allow any solvents, solvent residues, or any additives whatsoever in medical cannabis products sold in licensed dispensaries. Any cannabis product that does not pass Hawaiʻi’s stringent lab standards for purity must be destroyed.

Aside from solvents and artificial additives, are there other health considerations I should know?
Yes. Unregulated products are often packaged in, or with, inexpensive vaporizing devices manufactured with rubber, plastics or materials that may also vaporize at high temperatures. These cheap vaporizing devices, often sold in smoke shops or by black market sellers are unsafe and may pose health risks.

How do I know if my vaporization device is safe?
The State of Hawaiʻi requires licensed dispensaries to sell only SPA (Safe Pulmonary Administration) devices manufactured from non-reactive materials like ceramic, glass and stainless steel. All SPA devices sold by Maui Grown Therapries have been vetted and approved by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health.

What the additives are used in e-cigarettes?
A 2017 report published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed common additives in e-cigarette juice may pose health risks. Two specific additives, propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEGs), are often added as a carrier for nicotine and flavoring in e-cigarettes. While the FDA had approved PG use in at least one inhalable product, but that product was intended for inhalation alone, not heating and inhalation.

Why do people vaporize instead of smoking cannabis?
Cannabis “vaporization” is a technique that supresses irritating respiratory toxins by heating cannabis to a temperature where active cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion when smoke and associated byproducts are released.

Have there been studies about the safety of vaporizing extracted cannabis oils?
Yes, several. Beginning in 2001, Arno Hazekamp, PhD from University of Leiden in the Netherlands has conducted studies on vaporized cannabis flower and extracted cannabis oils for Storz & Bickels, manufacturers of the first cannabis vaporizers. His research showed that cannabis compounds heated below the temperature at which they burn will become a vapor that can be inhaled into the lungs and released in the bloodstream. His studies concluded the uptake of THC in the lungs from vaporization is comparable to smoking cannabis, while avoiding the respiratory disadvantages of smoking Dr. Hazekamp advised the Dutch national medical cannabis program and is considered one of the world’s leading experts in cannabis chemistry and cannabis oil manufacture. Several other studies have confirmed his findings that vaporization of cannabinoids is safe.

A STATEMENT FROM THE HAWAIʻI ASSOCIATION OF LICENSED THERAPEUTIC HEALTHCARE