A woman takes a puff from a cannabis vape pen in Los Angeles on Dec. 22, 2018. Public health concerns over vaping have cast a haze over expansion excitement in the cannabis market. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Richard Vogel

Health concerns over vaping cast haze over Canadian cannabis market expansion

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment

Public health concerns over vaping have cast a haze over expansion excitement in the cannabis market.

The production and sale of cannabis derivatives — edibles, extracts, topicals and vape products — become legal Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Licence holders need to give 60 days notice to Health Canada that they intend to sell the products, so they won’t land on store shelves until mid-December.

Some cannabis companies in Canada are anticipating a substantial increase in sales, but Christopher Carlsten said he would have liked to see legalization of cannabis vaping products postponed, or at the very least have significantly more public education about it.

“These products get out there and then we chase our tails trying to figure out what’s going on, why we are seeing the toxicity, and then try to regulate retrospectively, which is a dangerous way to do things,” said Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at University of British Columbia.

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment apparently linked to vaping.

READ MORE: U.S. vaping concerns loom as Canada legalizes pot devices

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the number of confirmed and probable cases of the severe pulmonary illness jumped to 1,299 across 49 states, including 26 deaths.

It has said at this stage “no one device, product or substance has been linked to all cases.” But health authorities there are urging people to stop using electronic cigarettes, specifically for products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound found in cannabis.

Vaping is a new trend and is constantly changing, so Carlsten said experts are just beginning to understand its impacts. Studies are showing short-term effects include swelling and heat damage to the lungs. Long-term, Calsten said, it has also being linked to emphysema.

“Their variability is just too great, the uncertainty is just too great, and I haven’t seen any particular product that has clearly been shown to be safe,” he said.

Health Canada will not be delaying the legalization of nondried-flower pot products over the concerns. There are regulatory controls for products to lower risks and Health Canada said in an email it will be able to respond to emerging health issues in a timely manner.

Ingredients in inhalable cannabis extracts will be restricted, including vitamin E acetate, which is a focus of investigation in several U.S. cases

“I am hopeful that we don’t see any knee-jerk reactions here in Canada towards prohibiting the sale or preventing the sale of these products,” said John Arbuthnot, CEO of Delta 9 Cannabis.

Delta 9 — a cannabis producer, processor and wholesale distributor based out of Winnipeg — has already been focusing much of its resources on preparing to bring vape pens and cartridges to market.

Arbuthnot said he is “very bullish” or invested in vape oil and is confident Canadian regulations will ensure the product is safe.

“Clearly the industry is very concerned, or should be, that vape cartridges will be suspended,” said Chris Damas, author of the BCMI Cannabis Report, a cannabis stock newsletter.

READ MORE: B.C. men seek to open class action against e-cigarette giant Juul

He said there has been significant investment by major cannabis companies to produce vape cartridges that can process concentrated cannabis.

It’s expected to become a lucrative product for legal companies who are struggling to push out persistent producers in the black market.

The Cannabis Council of Canada has said illicit vape market in Canada is estimated to be worth roughly $1 billion.

British tobacco giant Imperial Brands signed a $123-million investment deal with Auxly Cannabis Group over the summer. The London-based company has increasingly focused on e-cigarettes and vaporizers and the infusion of capital will bring that technology to the Canadian cannabis company.

Pax Labs, the American vaping company that created the Juul e-cigarette, partnered with four companies — Aphria, Aurora, Organigram and Supreme Cannabis — to provide a pen-and-pod system for cannabis concentrates.

“We are excited about the coming changes in regulation that will allow us to cover new and novel products … This agreement is one of many steps Aurora is taking to be ready for the new market opportunities,” Darren Karasiuk, chief commercial officer of Aurora, said in a news release in June.

Companies are hopeful consumers will be reassured that by following regulations their products are safe, Damas added.

Health concerns may have put a wrench in rollout plans for Canadian cannabis producers, but Damas said the result may actually be users moving to the legal market for vaping cartridges en masse.

“It’s definitely been a negative for the stocks,” he said. “But in a six- to nine-month period this will be reconciled.”

READ MORE: Okanagan principals told to confiscate vaping products from students

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Thursday’s blackout likely caused by vandalism

Power was out for 10,000 customers from Quick to the Hazeltons for almost 11 hours

VIDEO: Witset cannabis shop officially opens

The store, located at the gas bar on Hwy 16, is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Police investigate July 2 homicide in Houston

Man succumbed to injuries at Pearson Road residence

Tahltan fighter from Telkwa wins provincial award

Lando Ball recognized for his commitment to and accomplishments in karate and for community service

RCMP patrol of smokehouse sparks concerns by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader

Hereditary Chief Woos says he is feeling uneasy after RCMP attended the smokehouse with rifles

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read