Medical cannabis users could be left high and dry as regulators step up review  

The ongoing review of medical vape products by the state regulator has escalated over the past month, with the very real possibility that products could be removed from shelves within days. On November 16, licensed growers were given two weeks to resubmit data relating to their vape products, including full lists of ingredients. 

 The Pennsylvania Department of Health currently has regulatory jurisdiction in lieu of the proposed Pennsylvania Cannabis Regulatory Control Board, which has yet to be established. It issued the ultimatum amidst ongoing legal disputes over whether it even has the authority to demand this information or to take the action that it threatens.  

 Who is at risk? 

 In short, any one of the 630,000 or more patients who uses cannabis products for medicinal purposes will be concerned by the ongoing controversy. Different strains are used for different purposes. For example, while Kryptonite is recommended for its analgesic properties, Blue Cheese strain is an anti-emetic that has found favor with those undergoing chemotherapy to help manage their symptoms. 

 The efficacy of different cannabis products in treating medical conditions is still a matter of debate, with clinical trials ongoing around the world. But anecdotal evidence is strong, and there are thousands of patients who rely on these products for their therapeutic and analgesic properties.  

 Meeting the requirements 

 Judith Cassel is one of the state’s leading cannabis attorneys and is representing several growers and processors. She confirmed to reporters last week that her clients had complied with the regulator’s demands and submitted the data. She also confirmed that all their products complied with state regulations.  

 Whether or not regulators will agree remains to be seen. They confirmed they would complete their review “as expeditiously as possible,” and that might have been an end to the story were it not for their unprecedented decision to send an email directly to all 630,000 patients. 

 Patients left frightened and confused 

The email told patients directly that vape products containing additives might be unsafe for inhalation, and that if they were deemed to be so, they would be removed from shelves immediately. The email implied that the review was looking for specific additives, but gave no more specific information. 

 Meredith Buettner is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition. She described the email as “pretty unprecedented,” noting that such a step was not even taken by regulators in the vape crisis of 2019. She said it has left tens of thousands of patients frightened and confused. Many of these are people who are already battling with life-threatening medical conditions including dementia, cancer, depression, PTSD and epilepsy, to name just a few.  

 For now, all that anyone can do is await the outcome of the regulatory review. In the meantime, Judith Cassel and her clients continue to dispute the regulator’s authority, while Meredith Buettner and her colleagues field calls and attempt to provide comfort and reassurance to thousands of patients.  

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