WA Flavored Vape Ban: What I-502 Companies Need To Know

In recent weeks Governor Inslee has led the charge to reduce Washington State’s risk for vape related illness. Today the ban was placed into effect, here’s what it says and everything I-502 Cannabis Companies should know:

WAC 246-80-020 Prohibition. No person including, but not
limited to, a person licensed under chapter 69.50 RCW or chapter
70.345 RCW, may sell, offer for sale, or possess with the intent to
sell or offer for sale flavored vapor products or any product that he
or she knows or reasonably should know will be used with or in a vapor
product to create a flavored vapor product.

– WA State Board of Health / Link Here

The Effect on I-502

Thankfully, cannabis derived terpenes are allowed under the ban, but It’s not entirely clear on how enforcement of the new rules will play out. Here’s the full definition for banned ‘Characterizing Flavors‘;

“Characterizing flavor” means a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco or marijuana or a taste or aroma derived from compounds or derivatives such as terpenes or terpenoids derived directly and solely from marijuana, as defined in RCW 69.50.101(y), or hemp plants that have been grown and tested as required by state law, imparted by a vapor product. Characterizing flavors include, but are not limited to, tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice.

A vapor product does not have a characterizing flavor solely because of the use of additives or flavorings or the provision of ingredient information. It is the presence of a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, that constitutes a characterizing flavor.

– WA State Board of Health / Link Here

Obviously the ban takes away any vapes with non-cannabis derived terpenes and flavors being added. This will be a hit for many brands built around consistent (and lower cost) flavors, but some higher end brands will probably only need slight adjustments if any. The real question comes down to enforcement, are all cannabis terpenes safe?

Read the last paragraph quoted above.

Because labeling requirements are relaxed, enforcing the rules becomes impossible from looking at packaging alone. The state needed a way to tell which vapes have banned flavors, and which have allowed flavors like cannabis derived terpenes. The last few lines from the ‘Characterizing Flavors’ definition seem pretty vague. It’s possible that all carts tasting or smelling like any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, ext. constitutes as a characterizing flavor.

In conclusion, you SHOULD be safe adding cannabis derived terpenes to your vape carts. BUT if the intention of this ban was to completely rid the shelves of every vape smelling of fruit, it’s possible that something like a Super Lemon Haze cart could get pulled off the shelf for smelling too much like lemons..

UPDATE: Weeks after the ban, we’ve asked around multiple retail shops. So far, so good. We have not heard of any cannabis terpenes having issues with enforcement. Makes sure to label your products correctly and you should have no problems with the cannabis flavored carts.

Latest News on the Vape Illness

Is the ‘vape crisis‘ affecting business for no reason, or is there a legitimate cause for concern? If you’ve been keeping up with the news, things may look a bit over the top.. At the same time it’s pretty clear people are getting sick from cannabis products.

As of early October here’s official stats from the CDC:
(found at www.cdc.gov)

  • 1,080 lung injury cases reported.
  • Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states.
  • All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
  • Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products. The latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak.
  • 16% of patients are under 18 years old
  • 21% of patients are 18 to 20 years old

Is it worth the hype? Compared to the 480,000 cigarette associated deaths each year (nearly 1 in 5 of all deaths), I’d lean towards no. (cdc.gov)

Some of these numbers do strike home for concerned citizens and politicians like Governor Inslee in Washington State. The fact that over 1000 illnesses have been reported in a short time, and about 37% of the cases involved individuals under 20 years old is something to look at. To make things worse, it’s an election year. I can see how lawmakers would be up in arms over any ‘hot topic‘ that’s effecting our youth.

The Elephant in the Room

How many of these problem vape carts were sold on the black market?

Though the black market has shrunk since legalization, it thrives in the 39 states where cannabis smokers rely exclusively on ‘black market’ sources. Lets look at the CDC’s statistics again;

Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states: Alabama, California (2), Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (2), Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon (2), and Virginia. More deaths are under investigation

Found at cdc.gov

Of all the fatal cases only 4 were reported in legal recreational states, while 7 were reported in states that don’t even have medical marijuana. Obviously a good number of the problematic vape carts are being sold illegally. A ban on legal I-502 products wouldn’t be likely to help.

At this point the CDC has made it clear that there is a stronger correlation with THC vaping versus tobacco vaping. If they can’t correlate the illness to a specific chemical or additive, then it may not stop with general bans on flavors. Major brands around the country should be concerned that the finger is getting pointed at cannabis, but is there much they can do if the black market is to blame?

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