Pubdate: Tue, 21 Jan 2020
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Kevin Sabet


State-sanctioned marijuana shops are contributing to the rise in lung
illnesses and deaths at a higher rate than previously believed.

Proponents of the marijuana industry have dismissed the "pot vaping
crisis," with its deaths and lung injuries, as an aberration of the
illicit market. Legal pot, they say, is regulated and thus not to
blame for the recent spate of problems. Victims and families who came
forward to warn about purchases made at state-licensed shops were
lambasted by legalization advocates. When the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention advised against using all marijuana vaping
products, industry insiders questioned their motives and called the
warnings conspiracy theories.

Now the CDC has data to prove it. According to the agency's newly
released report, state-sanctioned marijuana shops are contributing to
the rise in lung illnesses and deaths at a higher rate than previously
believed. Moreover, the growth in contraband coming from states that
have legalized marijuana has made it nearly impossible for the CDC to
keep track of actual data in real time.

The constant stream of promotion from the pot industry continues to
drive up the rate of marijuana use nationwide. According to recent
surveys, marijuana use among young people in legal states has
increased 8% in the past year and is 50% higher than use in nonlegal
states. Other research recently published by professors at New York
University and Columbia found marijuana addiction among adolescents
was 25% higher in legal states. And marijuana vaping among high-school
students has more than doubled since 2017.

Refuting the marijuana industry's pronouncements over the past year,
the CDC report details a clear causal connection between "legal"
marijuana and a continuing public-health crisis. According to the
report, 131 of 809 patients who confirmed to researchers where they
purchased their products admitted to using commercial sources only,
which the CDC defines as "recreational dispensaries, medical
dispensaries, or both; vape or smoke shops; stores; and pop-up shops."

And although the CDC can trace this vaping crisis back to
state-sanctioned pot shops and dispensaries in 131 cases, in reality
the number is potentially much higher. The report states that 627
patients bought tainted vape products only from informal sources,
defined as "friends, family, in-person or online dealers, or other

But how informal are these sources? Despite promises to the contrary
by legal-marijuana advocates, the rise of corporate marijuana at the
state level has not ended-or even significantly shrunk-the illicit
market. A thriving underground market has sprung up across the country
at every level of the newly "legal" supply chain. Whether it's
front-of-store "budtenders" or growers with excess product, marijuana
is making its way across state lines, violating the law of the U.S.
and many states.

Marijuana advocates have ignored the blurring of the line between
licit and illicit markets, which has had deadly ramifications to
public health. What they've spent the last year decrying as an illicit
source-a dealer on the street or purchase from friends and
family-often originates at a marijuana shop that is legal under the
laws of its state.

Activists blame federal law for the vaping crisis, say it's necessary
to legalize marijuana completely, and insist that commercially sold
marijuana has caused not one lung injury. It turns out to have caused
at least 131.

Mr. Sabet is president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former
senior policy adviser for the Obama administration.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt