Medical marijuana patients set to regain vape product accessPosted by On


BOSTON (SHNS) – Medical marijuana users are on track to regain access to vaping products next week after state cannabis regulators declined Thursday to uphold the Baker administration’s ban, though access could be short-lived amid ongoing legal challenges and potential future regulatory measures.

The
executive director of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) said Thursday he
may pursue a quarantine of oil-based cartridges if a court order to resume
sales of medical marijuana-related vaping products on Tuesday remains in place.
Commissioners said at a packed public meeting, however, that they do not feel
comfortable implementing a more concrete restriction until public health
officials get a better understanding of a vaping-related lung illness outbreak
or until the future of Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency restriction is clear.

Baker’s
sales ban is set to lift Tuesday for medical marijuana patients — but remain in
place for other vaping products — following a ruling
this week from Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins that only the CCC, not the
Department of Public Health, has authority to restrict cannabis use.

The
administration appealed Wilkins’ ruling and asked for a temporary stay
preventing the medical marijuana vape ban from ending to avoid confusion. A
decision on whether to stay the order could come before Tuesday.

The
stay would allow the ban on all vape sales to remain in place while the case
goes to the Supreme Judicial Court on Dec. 9, but if it is not awarded, medical
marijuana vaping products could return to shelves starting at 12:01 a.m.
Tuesday until the CCC or its executive director acts.

Under
Wilkins’s decision, the CCC could have voted this week to retain the ban’s
coverage of medical marijuana vape products, but members opted not to take that
action at a Thursday meeting.

Instead,
commissioners approved a motion
to start creating new medical and recreational marijuana regulations, which
they said gives them the ability to respond to potential judicial rulings on
vaping.

“We
have to see whether the stay is granted or not,” CCC Chairman Steve
Hoffman told reporters after the vote. “If the stay is granted, nothing
will change about the governor’s order. If the stay is not granted, the
executive director has the prerogative to take administrative action. My
preference would have been to be explicit about what that administrative action
will be.”

Those
regulations would be limited to ingredients, labeling, testing, sourcing,
storage and both manufacturing and consumption processes of marijuana vaping
products.

The
CCC also agreed in its motion that the commission’s executive director, Shawn
Collins, has authority to take administrative action limiting sales of any
marijuana products to ensure public safety.

Collins
said during the meeting that he is “leaning toward” a quarantine of
oil-based cartridges if the ban is indeed lifted. Vaporized flower products are
not a target, Collins said, because they do not appear to be involved in the
cases of lung illness.

Neither
he nor the commission would commit to a clear timeline of when that would go
into effect.

“If
(the ban) were to be lifted, I would have every intention of deploying any tool
that we have to ensure that product that may not be safe for consumers or patients
does not reach the marketplace,” Collins said during the meeting.

The
motion passed unanimously, and although he supported the outcome, Hoffman said
he would have preferred the commission take a “more definitive
action” and lay out its plan on how new regulations will be approached.

Commission
members, though, said they wanted to wait until more evidence is available
about what role legal, medical products play in the lung illness outbreak.

“If
we are going to make a decision, particularly if that decision limits
availability of regulated products, we need to be clear about the fact that
that may send people to the illicit market,” Commissioner Shaleen Title
told reporters. “The CDC has noted that the majority of cases at this
point are linked to illicit THC products and that illicit THC products play a
major role in this outbreak. It is important for us to consider that and to
make our decisions understanding that any action is going to have
consequences.”

Baker
declared a public health emergency on Sept. 24 and ordered all vaping and
e-cigarette products taken off shelves for four months amid a growing outbreak
of vaping-related lung illnesses.

Three
Massachusetts deaths linked to the disease have been reported so far by state
officials.

Baker’s
decision set off a flurry of protests and legal challenges. Under court orders
in late October, the administration reissued
the first-in-the-nation ban as emergency regulations lasting until Dec. 24, a
three-month span.

Frank
Shaw, a 66-year-old medical marijuana user who was one of the parties that
intervened in the case, said after the commission’s vote that the ban has been
“devastating” to patients who depend on vaping cannabis products to relieve
pain.

“The
longer it’s going to take for this ban to be in place, it’s going to harm the
patients,” Shaw told reporters at Thursday’s meeting. “You’ve got to
remember that medical patients are not recreational consumers.”

Both
state lawmakers and the federal government are eyeing a crackdown on flavored
vape products.

House
Speaker Robert DeLeo said
last month that he wants lawmakers to “take a more comprehensive look
beyond just a plain vaping ban,” hoping to curb youth tobacco use and
vaping by banning flavored tobacco.

USA
Today reported
Wednesday that a federal ban on flavors is expected “within days.”

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