Virginia medical marijuana dispensaries avoid ban on THC vape products

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After initially mulling a blanket prohibition on vape products in Virginia’s soon-to-launch medical marijuana market, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy is instead pursuing an emergency ban on one ingredient sometimes found in black-market products, vitamin E acetate.

The sticky additive is thought to be responsible for thousands of vaping-related injuries and dozens of deaths around the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The five pharmaceutical processors licensed to grow and process medical marijuana in the state supported the approach as an alternative to a total ban on inhaled THC and CBD products, which they say are among the most popular products in other states that already have active medical marijuana programs.

“If the board were to restrict the sale of inhalation devices – thereby taking away a critical option for patients for whom other forms of administration would not work as well – then fewer patients will participate in Virginia’s program, and more medical cannabis users will continue to obtain their cannabis from less safe sources that are not lab tested, including from the illicit, unregulated sources where Vitamin E Acetate and other unsafe compounds are prevalent,” Katie Hellebush, the executive director of the Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition, which represents the five processors, said in testimony submitted to the board.

The Board of Pharmacy voted Tuesday morning to pursue emergency regulations, which require the approval of the Attorney General’s Office to go into effect. The board also voted to recommend the state health commissioner also take action on vitamin E acetate, which has been used on the black market as a cheap cutting agent, according to news reports.

A spokeswoman for the coalition said it was too soon to say what form inhaled products produced by the state’s medical processors will look like.

Initially pitched as a low-THC oil program that emphasized CBD, lawmakers loosened regulations earlier this year to allow the medical providers to offer as much or as little THC as they believe a patient needs. They also allowed the producers to offer products in any number of formulations, ranging from capsules and sprays to tinctures, gels, lozenges and lollipops.

The facilities are expected to open by the end of the year, but the timetable for them to begin selling products is now expected to stretch well into 2020.