Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., called Thursday for an investigation of counterfeit THC cartridges and the vaping and cannabis black markets during an Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, “Sounding the Alarm: The Public Health Threats of E-Cigarettes.”
Walden began his remarks by noting that in the last few weeks, an unidentified lung illness has already killed seven people and sickened over 500 across at least 38 states. The investigation into this illness is ongoing but does appear to be related to vaping.
“Earlier this month, public health officials in Oregon announced that a person who died in July of a severe respiratory illness had used an e-cigarette containing marijuana oil purchased from a licensed dispensary, meaning that the products sold in the store should have gone through a testing process regulated by the state,” said Walden. “It was the first death in the U.S. tied to a vaping product bought at a marijuana shop.
“Much is still unknown, however, including which dispensary sold the product, and whether it was contaminated or whether something was added into the liquid in the device after purchase.”
Walden went on to speak about several other instances where it appeared that vaping was linked to dangerous respiratory problems, including instances in North Carolina and New York.
“Luckily, the individuals in New York and North Carolina survived, but not all have been so lucky, including the individual who died in Oregon,” said Walden. “These cases of young, seemingly healthy young adults getting sick after vaping are piling up too quickly. These cases are shining a light on the youth vaping epidemic in the United States.”
According to the most recent data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, about 27.5 percent of youth reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, compared with 20.8 percent in 2018 – a 11.3 percent jump from just three years ago.
“Given these trends, the Administration, the states, and this Committee are right to look for solutions to curtail youth access to e-cigarettes,” said Walden. “I appreciate the Trump Administration’s pursuit of an effective solution to the problem of youth access, as well as the partnership between the Administration and the states to investigate this outbreak of lung illnesses.”
He continued. “However, there is another overlay to the e-cigarette problem: counterfeit products, including counterfeit THC products. Bootleg THC cartridges are becoming more common on the market, with vendors advertising counterfeit and bootleg products on social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram. According to press reports, the states that appear to be the most inundated with counterfeit THC products are in states where recreational marijuana is legal.”
Walden concluded by calling for a full investigation into counterfeit THC cartridges and the vaping and cannabis black markets.
“Let’s get a full set of facts to ensure we get it right on the policy solutions,” said Walden.