The legal marijuana industry is calling on the federal government to fully legalize cannabis so that its products can be regulated and tested, CNN reports. The call comes amidst a series of nationwide illnesses and deaths from "vaping," or using electronic vaporizer machines to heat cannabis and nicotine oil.
Marijuana is quasi-legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia; that is, though the states have "legalized" the drug, it remains illegal as a matter of federal law. However, since the Obama administration, the policy of the federal government has been to not interfere with state marijuana programs as long as certain conditions, such as keeping it out of the hands of children, are met.
However, the fact that marijuana is illegal federally means, among other things, that it isn't subject to the same testing, controls, regulation, and other scrutiny that other products get. Long story short: consumers are taking a chance when they buy cannabis products at a dispensary, and there's no guarantee that the product they're buying isn't tainted, adulterated, or even fake. And state and local regulation only go so far.
Adding another layer to the problem is the fact that people across the country are getting sick from "vaping," and the cannabis industry derives about a quarter of its revenue from vaping.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, some 450 people have gotten sick, and a handful of died, after coming down with severe respiratory issues after vaping. While the majority of the deaths and illnesses have come from vaping nicotine, a handful of the illnesses, and at least one death, have occurred after the user vaped cannabis.
On Wednesday, the cannabis-industry trade group National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) asked Congress to legalize pot and regulate it in order to get the upper hand on these vaping-related illnesses.
Aaron Smith, the NCIA's executive director, said in a statement that these vaping-related deaths, from vaping cannabis anyway, can be directly tied to marijuana's status as an illegal drug.
"These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies," Smith said.
As of this writing, investigators have been unable to connect any of the illnesses or deaths, from cannabis or nicotine, to any one manufacturer, retailer, or product. AC Braddock, CEO of Seattle-based Eden Labs, which extracts plant material, compares the process of extracting cannabis oil at home to homemade moonshine of the Prohibition Era.
"We are still in a bathtub-gin era with cannabis where there are a whole lot of people without access [to legal cannabis] and people who are not in the regulated market take advantage of this, and people who are new to the market take advantage of this," he said.