Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced a six-month ban on all flavored vaping products, which applies to products containing THC and nicotine.
Brown’s executive order, issued Oct. 4, addresses a growing number of vape-related lung disease cases and deaths across the country. As of Oct. 1, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed vaping-related lung injury cases and 18 deaths, including eight illnesses and two deaths reported in Oregon, according to the order.
“My first priority is to safeguard the health of all Oregonians,” Brown said in a public statement. “That’s why I’m directing state agencies to enact a temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping products, as well as other sources or additives identified in cases of vaping-related illness or death.”
The widely accepted theory is that illicit-market operators are distributing and selling untested cannabis vape cartridges that contain high levels of vitamin E acetate, a preservative commonly found in nutritional supplements or beauty products that is safe in its typical commercial forms.
Brown claims in the executive order, however, that products from state-licensed retail stores have been linked to vaping-related illnesses in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is investigating the possible link between the licensed market and the rash of diseases in the state.
The order mandates that the OHA and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) “adopt rules and take any action necessary to protect Oregonians, particularly Oregon’s youth, from the ongoing vape public health crisis, to the full extent allowed by law.”
These actions, as laid out in the order, include a six-month ban on the sale of all flavored vaping products, as well as a ban on any identified causes of the vape-related lung illnesses that may emerge as more information becomes available. The OHA and OLCC must develop plans for consumer warnings, ingredient disclosures and testing within 90 days to ensure that consumers are aware of any adverse effects of vaping, and the OHA must adopt rules requiring providers to report all cases of vaping-related lung disease.
In addition, the order directs the OHA and the Department of Consumer and Business Services to work with Coordinated Care Organizations, local public health officials and commercial health insurance providers to “identify and remediate barriers to obtaining cessation support and services.” The OHA and OLCC are also directed to implement a statewide “prevention and education campaign” to discourage the use of vape products.
Brown’s order also requires the OHA and OLCC to develop legislative proposals to ban all flavored vaping products containing nicotine or THC permanently; disclose all vaping product ingredients to consumers; increase regulatory oversight of vaping products and clarify and expand the OHA’s authority to take action when public health is at risk. It’s unclear whether a proposed permanent ban would then be forwarded to the state legislature, or whether these mandates are more exploratory options for how to manage the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses.
Finally, the executive order establishes a working group called the Governor’s Vaping Public Health Workgroup to advise Brown and state agencies regarding the vape crisis. The workgroup will be made up of “individuals with expertise in public health and pulmonology, representatives from business, and agency directors from OHA and OLCC.”
“We thank and commend Gov. Brown for taking swift and thoughtful action for the health and safety of all Oregonians,” said Cameron Forni, chief executive officer at Cura Partners and the founder of Select, in a public statement. “Working with health agencies, regulatory bodies, the cannabis industry, as well as the best information available around what is causing the acute vaping illnesses, Gov. Brown made a thoughtful decision around a public health crisis found in the illicit market, and we are proud to support it.”
Brown’s ban on vapes comes just shy of two weeks after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a similar move Sept. 24 to implement a four-month ban on vape sales in that state, including cannabis vape cartridges sold at licensed dispensaries.
Shaleen Title, a commissioner with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, tweeted at that time, “This is a terrible decision. Purposely pushing people into the illicit market—precisely where the dangerous products are—goes against every principle of public health and harm reduction. It is dangerous, short-sighted, and undermines the benefits of legal regulation.”
Brown’s order echoes a similar announcement by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who directed his state’s health department to ban all flavored vape products. The Washington State Board of Health will meet Oct. 9 to debate that request and, possibly, enact it.
In Oregon, the ban could have devastating consequences for cannabis farmers on the brink of harvest, according to a Willamette Week report. East Fork Cultivars, for example, plans to harvest and ship roughly 1,000 pounds of cannabis to extractors to produce oil for vaping cartridges, the news outlet reported.
“We’re counting on that money to get us through the most expensive time for all farms, which is harvest season,” Nathan Howard, East Fork’s co-founder, told Willamette Week. “We are counting on those deals to go through—a lot of farms are.”
Forni and the Cura Partners team plan to continue building on their quality and safety standards, as well as work with regulators to find a solution to the recent epidemic.
“Select is an Oregon brand, and one that was founded on the very basis of the most stringent oil testing protocols and hardware,” Forni said. “We have established and continue to set the strictest quality and safety standards within this industry, while also taking anti-counterfeiting measures so that customers can’t be fooled by illicit knockoff products. This is a new industry; we’re learning and we're making changes every day to protect the consumer. We support Gov. Brown in the new measures presented for the industry, and will continue to work alongside legislators and regulators to educate on standardized manufacturing for legal, compliant and deeply-tested vape products. This will only increase patient and consumer confidence in the legal vaping industry."