In late 2019, the United States was rocked by an outbreak of severe lung illness that took 68 lives and left an estimated3,000 individuals with ill health. Authorities soon found out that the cause of this lung disease breakout was illegal black market cannabis vaping products containing vitamin E acetate, a synthetic form of vitamin E that was used as a thickening agent. Dubbed e-cigarette and vaping-associated lung injury (“EVALI”), the outbreak led to the pull-out of several cannabis products with artificial thickening agents such as vitamin E acetate. In addition, regulators are thinking of banning the use of such additives in cannabis products.
Now, a new federally funded study looking at the relationship between the prevalence of EVALI and state cannabis policies has revealed that the outbreak was significantly less severe in states with legal cannabis markets. Published in the “Drug and Alcohol Dependence” journal, the study found that EVALI was less prevalent in states where adult-use cannabis was legal or where medical marijuana patients were allowed to grow their own cannabis. States with recreational cannabis markets had 42% fewer EVALI cases, the National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study revealed, while those that had medical marijuana markets where home cultivation was allowed had 60% lower EVALI incidence compared to medical marijuana states that didn’t allow home cultivation.
The report concluded that while there was a relationship between recreational marijuana laws and reduced EVALI incidence, the incidence of lung disease in medical marijuana states depended on “their policy attributes.” The states that had the highest EVALI incidence had either banned cannabis use outright or had medical cannabis industries that didn’t allow for home cultivation.
Penned by Abigail Friedman, a professor at Yale School of Public Health, and Megan Morean, a psychiatry research student at the Yale School of Medicine, the report is further proof of what cannabis reform activists have been saying: a legal cannabis market where products are regulated and tested for safety is much better than outright prohibition.
Outlawing cannabis will not reduce the demand; it will rather provide an avenue for black-market players to step in and provide products that are neither regulated nor tested for safety. And as we saw from the EVALI outbreak, it is the public that pays the ultimate price when there are no legal, registered sellers. As the report states, public demand for illicit products will decrease if consumers can obtain the substance legally from reputable sellers.
This research provides further proof that sector player such as Hero Technologies Inc. (OTC: HENC) aren’t only in business for profit but also indirectly protect public health.
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