Pa. sends second vague email to patients about medical marijuana vape product safety

There’s nothing to indicate that there was a specific incident that prompted the review

By: - December 15, 2021 12:23 pm

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

For the second time in less than a month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Office sent an email to patients informing them of a review of vaporized medical marijuana products. As with the first notice sent on Dec. 1, there’s no information about why the state ordered the review, what safety concerns it may have, or even a way for patients to contact the state with questions. 

“Patient safety is of utmost importance to the Medical Marijuana Office and those they serve,” the email begins. “As you are aware, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Office instituted a statewide review of vaporized medical marijuana products on November 16, 2021, to ensure that permittees are not using additives that are not safe for inhalation.”

There’s nothing to indicate that there was a specific incident that prompted the review, and since the state has already approved the products in question, it’s not clear why a second review would be needed. Nor is it clear what patients and dispensaries should do with any vape products they have; the email from the medical marijuana office doesn’t provide any contact information, saying “if you have any questions or concerns about the use of any medical marijuana products, you should consider consulting with the pharmacist at the dispensary or your certifying practitioner.”

The health department did not reply to a request for more information from the Capital-Star 

“The question patients really want to know the answer to is: did something happen? We have not been able to get to the bottom of that,” said Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, a nonprofit organization that represents medical marijuana permit holders.

She said the state sent another notice to operators Monday night as well, seeking additional information about the additives they’re using that Buettner says “looks something more like other states that regulate additives have used.” A Nov. 16 letter to operators asked them to submit all vaporized cannabis products with any additional ingredients, such as terpenes, for review, even products that the state had already approved. Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds that give plants their scents, and some growers of cannabis vape products add synthetic terpenes, usually to enhance a particular strain’s natural flavor.

Pa.’s review of medical cannabis vape products confuses and worries patients

Any products not submitted for review would be recalled, the Nov. 16 letter said, and any growers or processors who sold recalled cannabis products could be subject to penalties, including the suspension of all sales of vaporized products

The Monday notice to operators came from Sunny D. Podolak, Assistant Director and Chief Compliance Officer with the PA Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana. It reads, in part:

In addition to what you may have already provided, and in order to continue our review, please provide any information you have regarding the determined safety of the externally sourced additives for inhalation, including artificial terpenes or flavorings, used in your vaporized products.

If you are using additives, including artificial terpenes or flavorings, in other states, please provide the product name and the state in which it is approved.

“I think they are realizing that they didn’t roll this out the right way,” Buettner said. “We as a coalition and as operators remain dedicated to patient safety, and will continue to comply with the requests for additional information.” 

She added that the group shares patients’ concerns about whether there was a specific incident that prompted the review. “When they tell us what they need, we’re happy to comply.” 

Correspondent Kim Lyons covers western Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @SocialKimLy.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly