A woman takes a puff from a cannabis vape pen in Los Angeles on Dec. 22, 2018. Public health concerns over vaping have cast a haze over expansion excitement in the cannabis market. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Richard Vogel

Health concerns over vaping cast haze over Canadian cannabis market expansion

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment

Public health concerns over vaping have cast a haze over expansion excitement in the cannabis market.

The production and sale of cannabis derivatives — edibles, extracts, topicals and vape products — become legal Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Licence holders need to give 60 days notice to Health Canada that they intend to sell the products, so they won’t land on store shelves until mid-December.

Some cannabis companies in Canada are anticipating a substantial increase in sales, but Christopher Carlsten said he would have liked to see legalization of cannabis vaping products postponed, or at the very least have significantly more public education about it.

“These products get out there and then we chase our tails trying to figure out what’s going on, why we are seeing the toxicity, and then try to regulate retrospectively, which is a dangerous way to do things,” said Carlsten, head of respiratory medicine at University of British Columbia.

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment apparently linked to vaping.

READ MORE: U.S. vaping concerns loom as Canada legalizes pot devices

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the number of confirmed and probable cases of the severe pulmonary illness jumped to 1,299 across 49 states, including 26 deaths.

It has said at this stage “no one device, product or substance has been linked to all cases.” But health authorities there are urging people to stop using electronic cigarettes, specifically for products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound found in cannabis.

Vaping is a new trend and is constantly changing, so Carlsten said experts are just beginning to understand its impacts. Studies are showing short-term effects include swelling and heat damage to the lungs. Long-term, Calsten said, it has also being linked to emphysema.

“Their variability is just too great, the uncertainty is just too great, and I haven’t seen any particular product that has clearly been shown to be safe,” he said.

Health Canada will not be delaying the legalization of nondried-flower pot products over the concerns. There are regulatory controls for products to lower risks and Health Canada said in an email it will be able to respond to emerging health issues in a timely manner.

Ingredients in inhalable cannabis extracts will be restricted, including vitamin E acetate, which is a focus of investigation in several U.S. cases

“I am hopeful that we don’t see any knee-jerk reactions here in Canada towards prohibiting the sale or preventing the sale of these products,” said John Arbuthnot, CEO of Delta 9 Cannabis.

Delta 9 — a cannabis producer, processor and wholesale distributor based out of Winnipeg — has already been focusing much of its resources on preparing to bring vape pens and cartridges to market.

Arbuthnot said he is “very bullish” or invested in vape oil and is confident Canadian regulations will ensure the product is safe.

“Clearly the industry is very concerned, or should be, that vape cartridges will be suspended,” said Chris Damas, author of the BCMI Cannabis Report, a cannabis stock newsletter.

READ MORE: B.C. men seek to open class action against e-cigarette giant Juul

He said there has been significant investment by major cannabis companies to produce vape cartridges that can process concentrated cannabis.

It’s expected to become a lucrative product for legal companies who are struggling to push out persistent producers in the black market.

The Cannabis Council of Canada has said illicit vape market in Canada is estimated to be worth roughly $1 billion.

British tobacco giant Imperial Brands signed a $123-million investment deal with Auxly Cannabis Group over the summer. The London-based company has increasingly focused on e-cigarettes and vaporizers and the infusion of capital will bring that technology to the Canadian cannabis company.

Pax Labs, the American vaping company that created the Juul e-cigarette, partnered with four companies — Aphria, Aurora, Organigram and Supreme Cannabis — to provide a pen-and-pod system for cannabis concentrates.

“We are excited about the coming changes in regulation that will allow us to cover new and novel products … This agreement is one of many steps Aurora is taking to be ready for the new market opportunities,” Darren Karasiuk, chief commercial officer of Aurora, said in a news release in June.

Companies are hopeful consumers will be reassured that by following regulations their products are safe, Damas added.

Health concerns may have put a wrench in rollout plans for Canadian cannabis producers, but Damas said the result may actually be users moving to the legal market for vaping cartridges en masse.

“It’s definitely been a negative for the stocks,” he said. “But in a six- to nine-month period this will be reconciled.”

READ MORE: Okanagan principals told to confiscate vaping products from students

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Mike Dangeli gives his son, Hayetsk, a shoulder ride on Oct. 4. (Mike Dangeli/Instagram)
Skeena Voices | ‘The culture and the art saved my life’

Terrace-based artist shares stories of the journey that brought him here

The City of Terrace now requires masks at all indoor City facilities. (File Photo)
Masks to be required in all indoor City of Terrace facilities

Requirement comes as B.C. sees increase in COVID-19 cases

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of new COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw the highest number of new cases in the Health Authority since the start of the pandemic

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read