Finally, Colorado passing cannabis vape regulations to make products safer through increased testing, labeling
"It's really exciting to see this coming through"
It seems like an eternity ago, but around this time last year, the biggest health story in the US was the outbreak of vape-related lung injuries known as EVALI.
People were being hospitalized, some were dying and vape products were being banned outright, ripped off of shelves across the nation as panic seized users and concerned parents everywhere. Places like Boulder banned flavored vape juices and products. Companies like Juul, which were growing at explosive rates, suddenly went nearly belly up.
As of Dec. 17, 2019, the last update on the CDC’s official EVALI tracking webpage, there were 2,506 cases and 54 deaths nationwide.
While the story kind of fell by the wayside (as COVID-19 swept in to dominate the news cycle), Colorado legislatures were still working on addressing the problem. Because, vapes weren’t going anywhere — despite rules and regulations limiting their sale in certain areas, at least in the cannabis industry, vape sales remained fairly consistent throughout 2020. The state needed to come up with ways for making them safer, instead of simply trying to outlaw them.
So, they came up with new safety and labeling regulations. As of January 1st, or 2021, cannabis vape producers will be required to do emissions testing on their products, as well as labeling them with an expiration date.
“It's actually really exciting to see that [regulation] coming through,” says Alana Malone, the CEO of Green Dot Labs.
Green Dot Labs is a Colorado cannabis extract company that focuses solely on making “ultra-premium” cannabis extract products. Malone explains that tests like these aren’t available to licensed producers like Green Dot Labs until the state certifies them.
“So, sometimes we're waiting on the state to kind of get up to speed with the times,” she says. Which was the case here. “As we've been producing Vaporizer products for two years now, this is a testing we wanted to see available.”
To meet these new requirements, extractors will now have to send a sample of each of their products to a third-party lab. There, the oil will be vaporized and a computer assesses the chemical composition of the aerosols released. If there are any heavy metals, nasty chemicals or vitamins present, that shouldn’t be, the product will fail. However, if it passes, it’s good to go to market.
The new regulations will also require vaporizer cartridges to include “best by” dates on their labeling, to further increase product safety.
“That's an attempt to measure shelf stability and make sure that, if a product has been on shelf for an extended period of time, that there's testing, verifying that it will hold up and retain its integrity through that time period.” Malone says.
These new regulations will functionally reinforce the safety of cannabis vape products. Last year, people were genuinely rattled and nervous about the unknown effects that vapes might be having on their lungs. No one really knew what the isseue was, so people were hesitant to pick up any vape — commercial or otherwise.
Now, though, people will be able to easily identify commercial vape cartridges that are trustworthy and which have been lab-tested; they’ll know that there are no unwanted ingredients in the concentrate they’re smoking, and they’ll know that the extract is relatively fresh. That’s all good news for users.
Which translates to good news for businesses. It’s Malone is excited to see these vape regulations finally coming through — even though she knows it will cost them a nominal amount more. These tests and label regulations are only going to make people more confident about using their extract products, which means they’ll hopefully be selling more.
“The crisis that we dealt with at the end of last year was a crisis born of unregulated cannabis production and sales,” she says. “This is just more security going forward for the industry as we continue to face headwinds.”