“More About Marijuana” Campaign Highlights Risks of Consuming Illicit Vaping Products
WORCESTER— Just in time for those who may recognize April 20, the Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) is reminding patients and consumers that untested, unregulated marijuana vaping products can pose serious risks as part of the agency’s ongoing award-winning public awareness campaign, “More About Marijuana.”
Through a series of animated videos spanning 15 to roughly 90 seconds long, the latest campaign segment highlights that devices used to vaporize flower and concentrate may often be the products of choice for Massachusetts residents, but there are still many unknowns about their health effects.
“We know patients and consumers are vaping, but the recent public health emergency in the United States demonstrates there is still much we all need to learn about the impacts, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” said Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan, public health appointee to the agency. “‘More About Marijuana’ encourages patients and consumers to opt for tested, regulated options if they do choose to vape cannabis, and to learn as much as they can about any substance before they put it in their bodies.”
In 2019, in the midst of a nationwide crisis informed by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared a vaping public health emergency and issued a temporary, statewide ban on the sale of all vaping products, including cannabis-based devices and cartridges. As a result, the Commission issued quarantine orders of licensed vaporizer products, and focused investigative activity into vitamin E acetate (VEA), which the CDC identified as a chemical of concern found in vaping products used by people with associated lung injuries or EVALI. Among its actions, the agency conducted three phases of testing of licensed vaporizer products, and posted results on the Commission’s website under MassCannabisControl.Com/Documents. VEA was not detected in any Commission-initiated testing.
That December, Massachusetts product manufacturers were able to start manufacturing and selling new vaporizer products—subject to screens for VEA as well as other contaminants required under the Commission’s testing protocols—and by August 2020, licensees could start retesting, releasing, reclaiming, or destroying previously quarantined products, subject to a subsequent, amended Commission order. The Commission continues to emphasize that measured, transparent testing mitigates, but does not eliminate, all public health risks posed by quarantined vaporizer products, and evaluate information relative to vaporizer product manufacturing processes and safety standards in furtherance of its obligation to ensure a safely regulated industry.
The “More About Marijuana” videos highlight these findings and actions, while noting that unlicensed, untested products are more likely to contain fillers of concern, such as VEA. The campaign also highlights that Commission regulations require all marijuana products to undergo contaminant testing, including testing for heavy metals, by an Independent Testing Laboratory accredited to the International Organization for Standardization 17025 (ISO/IEC 17025: 2017) and in accordance with the Commission’s Protocol for Sampling and Analysis of Finished Medical Marijuana Products and Marijuana-infused Products.
Additionally, the Commission has implemented new regulations that require licensees to list active or inactive additives in marijuana vaping products, including the amount infused or incorporated during the manufacturing process, as well as thickening agents, thinning agents, and specific terpenes. Patients or consumers also are empowered to request to inspect a copy of a vaping product’s associated testing results from licensees.
Massachusetts’ state-mandated public awareness campaign first launched in 2018 with a focus on responsible adult use and the prevention of underage cannabis consumption. Since then, the Commission has published a campaign homepage at MoreAboutMJ.org, distributed content about the dangers of home manufacturing marijuana products, and disseminated safety tips for cannabis consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“More About Marijuana” has been recognized for several industry awards, including a Telly award in the campaign (local TV) category and Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) MarCom Awards in the website category and Excellence in Digital Video Creation – Animation. Last year, the Commission published a report summarizing and measuring the effectiveness of More About Marijuana, and currently, the agency’s Research and Communications teams are working with MORE Advertising to inform future direct-to-youth campaign content about the risks of underage consumption.
For more information about the Commission’s public awareness campaign, visit MoreAboutMJ.Com, contact the Commission by emailing Commission@CCCMass.Com or calling 774-415-0200, or follow the agency on Facebook and Twitter.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a substance use disorder, the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline is available online at https://helplinema.org/ and by phone at 800-327-5050.
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