When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a few days ago that e-cigarette and oil vape pens were causing severe respiratory illness and possibly even death, it didn’t surprise me at all. As I’ve written about before, I’m a proud black market marijuana grower who doesn’t trust anyone else to grow or process marijuana for me. Greed and incompetence are big in the legalized cannabis industry, and you have no way of knowing if commercial cannabis is grown and processed properly. The first time I ever took a hit off of a cannabis-infused oil vape pen, I got sick. So the CDC’s recent warning reaffirmed that I was correct in never buying vape oil pens or using them again.
The CDC warned in late April that some e-cigarette and vape users across the country have severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products (devices, liquids, refill pods, cartridges). E-cigarettes are devices that deliver an aerosol to the user by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver cannabinoids and terpenoids.
As of early September, nearly 450 cases of severe pulmonary disease and three deaths associated with the use of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) products have been reported, and additional pulmonary illnesses are under investigation. At least two dozen states have reported these problems.
Victims of this mysterious ailment experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Some have also experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or weight loss. Some patients said their symptoms developed rapidly over a few days, but others reported a gradual onset of problems over a period of weeks.
Some patients reported that the gastrointestinal symptoms began before respiratory symptoms. Fever, elevated heart rate, and elevated white blood cell count were found in many patients, and CDC notes that some patients had to make multiple visits to urgent care, primary care doctors and emergency rooms before medical personnel had a clue about the origins of and treatments for the problems.
Many patients have had to be treated with supplemental oxygen, ventilators and corticosteroids, and at least one patient has died. The CDC emphasizes that at this point, they don’t believe this illness is infectious.
Even though I understand the many harmful respiratory effects of combusting marijuana, I’ve had bad experiences with e-cigs, vaporizers and other electronic marijuana delivery devices. Several of the portable vaporizers I’ve used, including models that cost nearly $300, had problems with toxic off-gassing. One manufacturer’s top of the line portable vaporizer delivered me a foul-tasting vaping session—and then my throat swelled up, my lungs felt like they were on fire, I passed out, and woke up in a hospital.
The doctor said that the vaporizer had silicone rubber components that released poisonous gas when the device heated up. This was potentially fatal, he said. When I contacted the manufacturer, a well-known brand that’s still selling portable vaporizers, they admitted they were arguing with each other inside the company whether or not to issue a recall for thousands of units. It made me very irate that they knew about the toxic off-gassing, continued to sell the units, and hadn’t warned retailers or consumers!
What’s worse, when I informed them I was part of a cannabis journalism consortium and was going to write about them and their dangerous products, they desperately begged me not to do so, and offered various bribes for my silence.
Then when I responded that journalists have a duty to warn cannabis consumers about harmful vaporizer products, they suddenly started played hardball, saying “we know where you live and that you’re a grower,” and “we have a team of lawyers who will tie you people up in lawsuits for years and bankrupt you.”
Call us cowards, but we decided not to bust them publicly. However, we did call all the major vaporizer re-sellers and warn them about this brand.
I use the Arizer V-Tower desktop vaporizer, a model that has worked perfectly for three years and never creates toxic off-gassing. You can use half the amount of cannabis and get the same amount of activated cannabinoids and terpenoids as you get when combusting—without the hundreds of toxic and often carcinogenic byproducts that come from combusting.
Like I’ve said in other articles, one of the best reasons to be a marijuana grower is to assure yourself of the cleanest, safest, freshest, most potent buds that give you exactly the high you want. If you buy whole buds, oils, e-cig cartridges, cannabis concentrates or any other cannabis product from anyone, you never really know for sure how they grew that cannabis, how they processed the cannabis-derived products, or what’s in them.
Probably there are safe portable vaporizers and maybe even some safe e-cigarette marijuana-infused cartridges on the market somewhere. But I don’t need them. When I’m not at home so I can’t use my Arizer desk-top vape, I combust dry sift or bubblehash, which greatly reduces the amount of particulate and combustion byproducts as compared to combusting buds.
The bottom line is, you can get your cannabinoids and terpenoids without using e-cig and portable vape devices. You can grow your own marijuana and do it better than anyone else. That’s how you ensure your inhalation safety, and maximum marijuana pleasure.