As authorities scramble to address a mysterious vaping illness that has sickened more than 800 people nationwide and killed 12 or more, a proposed year-long ban on vaping in Los Angeles has sent the cannabis industry reeling.
Adam Spiker, executive director of cannabis trade organization Southern California Coalition, fears outlawing one of the most popular forms of cannabis consumption would only feed the dangerous illicit market.
"If the city does go through with the ban, the only ones that will comply are the legal outlets," Spiker told Cheddar. "If there's a marketplace for vaping and we are not handling that through legal means, the logical thing is that they'll go to the illicit sector, [which will] probably start selling themselves as, 'Hey we have vaporizers, the legal ones don't.' So it's almost more oxygen to their illicit activity."
Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Krekorian introduced a measure last week to prohibit sales of cannabis vape products and accessories for one year, with the option to renew the ordinance until vape products are deemed safe, Marijuana Business Daily reported.
"I am seeking to halt cannabis vaping until it is proven safe," Krekorian said in a statement.
Krekorian's call comes amid a national scramble to determine the cause of the vaping illness. The Centers for Disease Control has not linked one specific chemical, brand, or product to the spate of illnesses, but on Friday announced that a majority of sick patients who self-reported their use history had reported using THC vape products.
In response, the CDC amended its guidance to consumers to include a specific warning about THC vape products. Several states and local jurisdictions, including parts of Los Angeles, have voted to ban flavored e-cigarette products in order to discourage vaping — especially among young users.
Spiker said he's not surprised authorities are weighing the ban, but encourages officials to consider "something that's in the best interest of everyone — the stakeholders, certainly public health."
According to a report from LeafLink that looks at wholesale cannabis trends, vapes and cartridges are among the most popular categories in many states, including California. Spiker worried pulling vapes off shelves would handicap the legal industry.
"I can't even put it lightly, it would be crippling to some of the manufacturers' business and a lot of the retailers' business," he said.