The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) has reported its first confirmed case of a serious respiratory illness related to vaping in Clark County. This report comes amid various other reports from around the country, where e-cigarette related illnesses have been spiking. However, in this case, the SNHD reported that the person involved is a minor under the age of 18, who used vaping products that should not have been made available to them.

The main concern with the individuals that have contracted a respiratory illness from e-cigarettes is that they were purchased illegally from the black market and not from a licensed shop and/or dispensary. Currently, vape products that contain cannabis are heavily regulated. As other cannabis products are tested in laboratories for the appropriate THC levels and have to pass strict testing standards, vape cannabis products are likewise tested to ensure compliance with the same standards. In fact, medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers can request a “certificate of analysis” at legal dispensaries that will provide the results of the quality assurance testing that each cannabis product must pass.

The problem with black market vape products is that many times, it is hard to tell what is the “real deal” and what is a knock-off. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol “vapor” that is produced by an e-cigarette, while e-cigarettes are the devices that produce the aerosol vapor through the heating of a liquid that contains various chemicals. Typically, illegal vape sellers mix liquid cannabis oil with a series of harmful oils such as Vitamin E, mineral oil, and coconut oil. Vitamin E is a thickening agent, which makes the cannabis oil appear to be thicker and of higher quality, when in fact, it is more dangerous.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has launched an ongoing investigation to determine the root cause of these illnesses. No single substance has been identified as the cause; however, the leading suspect is chemical exposure. In the meantime, the CDC has cautioned the public against purchasing vape products off of the street or modifying vape products, such as adding substances that were not intended to be added by the manufacturer.

For now, until the CDC reports its findings, the safest way to ensure that the vape product you are purchasing is legitimate is to go to a licensed dispensary where every product sold is heavily tested to ensure strict compliance with the laws. A list of licensed marijuana dispensaries as of April 2019, can be found on the Department of Taxation’s website [1]. Additionally, every dispensary licensed to sell either medical or adult-use marijuana must be licensed by the state and each local jurisdiction. These licenses must be posted in a conspicuous place. State law also requires that each marijuana product be labeled according to the requirements set for in NRS 453D.200 and NAC 453D.828. These requirements include but are not limited to:

  • Having the name and address of each marijuana store;
  • The date in which the concentrated marijuana was extracted;
  • The date in which the concentrated marijuana was packaged;
  • Warnings that include:
    • “Keep out of reach of children”
    • “This product may have intoxicating effects and may be habit-forming”
  • If concentrated marijuana or marijuana extract was added to the product, disclosure of the type of extraction process and any chemical/ compound that was added to the product.

An example of a correct packaging label taken from NAC 453D.828 can be found here:

Where cannabis is involved, the Nevada Dispensary Association (NDA), Nevada’s primary cannabis industry trade association, has released a statement regarding the reported vaping illnesses. They echo the national Cannabis Trade Federation in imploring cannabis users to avoid black market products. Additionally, once the CDC determines the root cause of these illnesses, the NDA will fully support the necessary implementation measures needed to avoid vape-related pulmonary diseases. Until then, the easiest and safest way to purchase legitimate vape products is from a licensed retailer.