Virginia Thornley, M.D.
October 9, 2019
Given the recent rash of deaths thought to be caused by vaping e-cigarettes, patients are scrambling to ask their doctors regarding the risks of vaping medical cannabinoids.
Many of the reports reporting deaths have been with e-cigarettes which do have chemicals that can potentially cause irreversible damage to the lungs. Some reports report that THC oils were used but do not state the source. THC oils were reported to be placed in the vaporizer device used for e-cigarettes to be vaped. In Florida, medical products used in vaping for medical purposes from regulated dispensaries are from all natural products, a very different set-up compared to the components found in e-cigarettes.
It is not clear if some of these reports are from tightly regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. In the state of Florida, there have been no reports of deaths related to vaping cannabinoids used for medical use that come from stringently regulated dispensaries. In the state of Florida, medical cannabinoids have strict regulations and there is a vertical distribution meaning the products are with the company from time they are grown as a seedling to the time of dispensing so that there are no other outside products that are added later.
At this point, October 2019, there have been no reported deaths due to vaping medical cannabinoids in Florida when taken from legal regulated dispensaries. The lung-related illnesses associated with vaping in Florida are related to vaping from e-cigarettes which may also have other substances added. This is completely different from vaping the cannabinoid medical products which are all natural products from medical dispensaries.
We turn to research for the analysis of the potential risks involved with vaping. There is one study but it involves vaping cannabinoids using e-cigarette devices. The gas-thermal degraded products have not yet been thoroughly analyzed. In this study, there is potential exposure to benzene, methacrolein and methyl vinyl ketone. Tetrahydrocannabinol alone and mixed with terpenes can lead to elevated levels of isoprene. Terpenes may lead to higher gas products. Overall, gas-phase products are much lower compared to smoking products (1). There has been little research on vaping medical cannabinoids dispensed from the dispensaries and so far, no deaths have been reported from cannabinoids coming from regulated dispensaries in Florida.
This is information only not advice. Please consult with your physician.
- Meehan-Atrash, J., Luo. W., McWhirter, K.J., Strongin, R.M. Aerosol gas-phase components from cannabis e-cigarettes and dabbing: mechanistic insight and quantitative risk analysis. ACS Omega. 2019, Sep. 16,;4(14):6111-16120