- Cannabis vaping cartridges.
Michigan regulators took a big step toward protecting cannabis consumers from the vaping-related lung illness that has caused the deaths of at least 49 people and sickened more than 2,290 others nationwide.
Beginning Friday, the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) began prohibiting dispensaries from selling THC cartridges until they are tested for vitamin E acetate, the chemical additive linked to the lung illnesses.
The only problem: None of the state's six licensed labs has been given the green light to test for vitamin E acetate. For testing to begin, a lab must demonstrate that it has developed an effective method for identifying the chemical additive.
Until that happens, dispensaries won't be able to resume selling the popular vaping products. PSI Labs in Ann Arbor says it has developed a method and expects to soon seek state approval.
Nearly two months ago, Metro Times published a cover story warning about the dangers of vitamin E acetate and the state’s failure to protect consumers from the chemical. In early September, FDA investigators began finding vitamin E acetate in samples collected from lung illness patients across the country. The same compound was found in nearly all cannabis samples from New York patients who have fallen ill in recent weeks, according to that state's health department. But Michigan officials were slow to take action.
It’s unclear how prevalent vitamin E acetate has been in Michigan’s legal market because vape cartridge manufacturers had not been required to test for it or reveal the ingredients, though dispensary operators interviewed by Metro Times maintain that they don’t sell products with additives like vitamin E acetate.
Black-market THC cartridges are easy to find in Michigan, however, because the state has done little to address the illicit delivery services that advertise on websites and apps such as WeedMaps and Craigslist. A black market has proliferated in the interim period between Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana use last year and the start of legal recreational marijuana sales, which are expected to begin next month.
A Google search for marijuana delivery services in Michigan lists dozens of websites that illegally sell untested vape cartridges in legit-looking packaging under the names "Chronic Carts," "Dank Vapes," "Fruity Pebbles," "Dr. Zodiak," "Exotic Carts," and "Fwaygo." Many of the brands are fake. Some were used by patients who have become seriously ill.
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.