States in the US that have legal cannabis markets have fewer occurrences of vaping-associated lung injuries, or VAPI, a study published in the November 2021 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows.
The 2019 VAPI outbreak in the US saw 2758 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 64 confirmed deaths as of February 2020. Commentators at the time likened the epidemic to opioids cut with fentanyl, or adulterated ecstasy. Cannabis legalisation campaigners used the case to highlight the importance of a legal and regulated market.
One of the main causes of VAPI was thought to be Vitamin E acetate, used as a thickening agent by manufacturers of unlicensed THC and E-cigarette vape juices that were sold on the black market all across the country, with higher sales recorded in states with laws against the use of recreational cannabis. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) announced in 2019 that just over half (56%) of the samples of vape liquids sent in tested positive for Vitamin E acetate.
The study showed that there were 40% fewer reported cases of VAPI in states that permitted adult-use recreational cannabis, and that figure rose up to 60% in states that allowed their residents to grow their own cannabis.
The authors of the study concluded that cases of VAPI stemmed primarily from black market cannabis concentrate vaping devices, and went on to say “Simply put, if the public can obtain products legally from reputable sources, there is less demand for illicit market products. Thus, RM [recreational marijuana] legalization could have dampened market penetration of tainted marijuana concentrates by reducing consumption of informally-sourced marijuana products more generally.”