By Angel Underwood
More than 1,000 illnesses and almost 20 vape-related deaths continue to cause fear across the country, which is not a surprise to Steve Goldner.
As one of the original developers of methadone and pioneer designer for the first recreational-drug test in the 1970’s, Goldner forecasted a vape scare long ago. The former New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office toxicologist told the New York Daily Weed Report until cannabis becomes federally regulated, and the black market eliminated, he was sure sickness and possible death were inevitable without proper testing.
“Now the question is how quickly we can discover the cause and then get the fix in place, so families don’t suffer these terrible losses,” he said.
Meanwhile, patients should be ultra careful about using products, Goldner added.
As the founder and CEO of Pure Green, which produces cannabis-infused under-the-tongue tablets, Goldner said thousands of scientists are barred from studying THC due to its classification as a Schedule 1 drug. Even scientists at nearby University of Michigan who could help discover the cause of the vape problem can’t get involved and help.
“They’re not allowed to do any research anywhere in the entire university on THC or CBD, unless it is under the strictest controls,” he said. “That’s why we don’t have any of the research done yet.”
Goldner said states that have legalized cannabis have a stricter level of testing; however, there are still holes in the regulatory gap that need to be filled.
“Right now, in every state that has cannabis regulation, products need to be tested for how much THC or CBD is in there, as well as for pesticides, heavy metals, arsenic, and bacterial contamination,” he said. “However, the loophole is that no one is regulating the inactive ingredients or the unlicensed product manufacturers.”
It could very well be the cutting agents and solvents going into the vape cartridges that are causing such harm, according to Goldner, adding things that appear to be inactive ingredients are not necessarily dormant after being heated, vaporized or ingested.
“There are no rules yet on what can be used in a vape cartridge,” he said. “Many of them are flavored or colored with something, and there are no rules that say what that can be, and those rules are important.”
While the Federal Drug Administration is regulating chewing gum with rigor, it doesn’t test cannabis products, Goldner said. Until then, the recent situation is similar to alcohol prohibition.
“After prohibition, people were still making bathtub gin for many years and people died because it was bad booze,” he said. “I think that is what is happening now, and we are trying to track it down.”
Until the cause of the problem is found, Goldner said consumers need to truly recognize their health is at stake and to pay attention to their bodies.
“Nobody knows your body like you do,” he said. “If you begin to feel bad or wrong, you need to get checked out, and you have to tell the treating physician honestly what you are doing.”