On Sept. 26, Medicine Man announced that it was pulling cannabis vape cartridges containing propylene glycol or vitamin E acetate from its shelves. The dispensary business operates four adult-use storefront and one medical cannabis location in Colorado.
Those two chemical additives have been targeted in ongoing investigations into the rash of vaping-related pulmonary disease in the U.S.
"The decision to take this particular product off our shelves was significant, as the confidence and trust of our consumers is paramount to our core values," Medicine Man President and CEO Sally Vander Veer said in a public statement. "We were extremely pleased with the reception of our internal staff and budtenders, who recognized our dedication to quality and safety even at the expense of our bottom line. As pioneers in this space, we will continue to fight for what our consumers deserve. Hopefully the rest of the industry will also conclude that removing these cannabis products with the chemical additives under scrutiny from the market is in the best interest of consumers and all of us as operators."
In a follow-up email, Vander Veer declined to list which vape products this included.
By no means is this move happening in a vacuum, however. The cannabis market has heavily weighed its responsibility in reaction to dire headlines.
MedPharm Holdings, a cannabis research and IP development company based in Colorado, is in the process of being acquired by Medicine Man’s parent company, Medicine Man Technologies. It, too, has joined the industry-wide call for transparency and public health awareness in the vaping category.
On Sept. 12, MedPharm Holdings issued a statement in response to the pulmonary disease outbreak. The company warned against cannabis thinning agents that have been found in some vape products linked to illnesses in the U.S. and Canada. MedPharm specifically cited “vitamin E acetate, normally used in the food industry as a preservative, propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are all popular cannabis thinning agents.”
The company insisted that it had committed to never use those additives in its vape products. MedPharm scientists cited an “unacceptable health risk” in the use of those thinning agents. (On Sept. 25, Georgia and Florida health officials each reported another death caused by the vaping-related pulmonary disease, bringing the total count to 11 in the U.S.)
“Some of these chemical additives (particularly PG and VG), when heated too high during the vaping process, can degrade into harmful cancer-causing byproducts, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein,” according to the MedPharm statement. “The additives have also been linked to the presence of lipid-laden macrophages found in the lungs of people who suffer from this new vape-induced lung disease. The presence of these lipid deposits can, in turn, trigger inflammation in the lungs, a condition known as lipoid pneumonia. Many of these suspected additives simply haven't been evaluated for safety when inhaled and could very well be associated with the observed symptoms in the growing number of cases.”
Medicine Man management reported that it had “discarded” the vape products containing propylene glycol and vitamin E acetate.
“Our budtenders attend weekly education meetings to be updated on the latest information surrounding products that we sell, compliance issues, and how to discuss concerns/questions from customers related to news events such as these,” Vander Veer told Cannabis Business Times. “Removing potentially harmful products from our shelves makes these conversations easier for our team.”