But, some people in the industry believe, the problem could also represent an opportunity, to both help people and push toward wider legalization in the United States. On Wednesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) put out a call to Congress: To deal with vaping-related illnesses, legalize cannabis and regulate us. Cannabis’ status as a federally illegal substance fuels illicit products, hinders research and limits the ability to develop consistent regulations, the head of the cannabis trade association said Wednesday. “These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies,” Aaron Smith, the NCIA’s executive director, said in a statement.
Federal and state health officials are scrambling to identify the causes of a multi-state outbreak of pulmonary diseases associated with recent use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. More than 450 people have been sickened and six people have died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No businesses or products have been implicated in the outbreak, but some of the products in question have contained cannabis compounds, notably the psychoactive THC, according to the CDC. Suspicion has fallen on illicit or bootleg THC vaping devices as well as additives, and many of the illnesses and deaths reported have been in states that don’t have regulated recreational cannabis programs. “We are still in a bathtub-gin era with cannabis where there are a whole lot of people without access [to legal cannabis] and people who are not in the regulated market take advantage of this, and people who are new to the market take advantage of this,” said AC Braddock, CEO of Seattle-based Eden Labs, a 25-year-old manufacturer of equipment that extracts plant oils. Even if the issue is rooted in the black market,