Top 3 Proactive Responses to Vape-Gate

by Jessica BillingsleyOctober 01, 2019

I saw vape-gate coming.

Of course, I didn’t predict the exact situation, but in 2010, at the start of the legal cannabis industry, I saw an impending scandal tied to cannabis – either real, perceived, or orchestrated by the opposition. I was standing in one of the very first licensed cannabis businesses in Colorado, in which I had invested, surrounded by plants, and I thought, “We have to give business owners and the public visibility into this plant – and not just at point of sale – but across the entire supply chain.” I believed data-driven transparency and visibility from seed-to-sale would provide safeguards to help propel the cannabis industry out of the shadows and forward toward broader legalization.

We now face a crisis linked to cannabis, which very sadly involves several deaths. As an industry, I believe our best response is to advance seed-to-sale tracking. Arguably, we already have the most transparent and accountable consumer product goods supply chain among any other product you put on or in your body. Pull a gummy out of any package of cannabis edibles, and, if tracked with MJ Platform, I can tell you what farm it was grown on, what nutrients it was grown with, the flower-to-oil processing method, what other ingredients went into the gummy, where it was sold, and more. It’s an unprecedented level of visibility that gives us an incredible amount of data to fact-find if anyone gets ill or harmed after consuming a cannabis product. We can identify so much about the product(s) in question that narrowing down cause or source of a problem is incredibly fast and accurate.

We’ve set this standard without being asked and we must do more. We believed seed-to-sale tracking was the best practice in 2010 and many of our clients, both operators and governments, joined us to track their products willingly, because they shared that vision. Now, seed-to-sale tracking is a widely adopted industry standard that I believe has protected patients and the industry. Currently, there’s only one case linked to legal cannabis purchases, and that’s a telling sign that what we are doing as an industry does provide protections. Let’s willingly take the next steps to bring even more trust and transparency to cannabis. Here’s how:

Tracking Additives

Right now, investigators are honed-in on vitamin E additives as probable cause for the mysterious illness. Today, MJ Platform clients can track additives in oil – whether it’s a cutting agent or food grade terpenes – and then communicate those additives to vendors and customers. We believe additive ingredients should be a required data field for any finished gram of oil. The public should know all the ingredients they are combusting in order to make informed decisions and in order to make linkages if ever an issue arises. We’re committed to training our existing client base that they can begin to track this information today and communicate it to their customers.

Informing the Consumer

Of the cannabis vape products linked to these illnesses, the purchases were made from pop-up shops, illicit markets, or even online. From the consumer perspective, it’s easy to imagine if you are in a legal state that the product offered in a pop-up shop has gone through the same seed-to-sale tracking and testing rigors as ones found in a dispensary. Clearly, that’s not the case, and there are serious health consequences associated with not knowing if the product is from a legal source or not—which is why we have partnered with solo sciences. Consumers can know if the cannabis product they are holding is legitimate just by looking at the solo*CODE mark that works like a unique fingerprint for each product (which by the way integrates beautifully with existing packaging design). Consumers can also scan the product’s solo*CODE with an app available on any mobile device and pull up product details about the product’s life-cycle, essentially putting seed-to-sale in their hand via an app.

Pushing for adult-use state legalization

Where cannabis is readily available for adult-use, we have seen fewer cases of cannabis-related, vaping illnesses. States that legally allow any adult over 21 to purchase and have enough legal supply to meet consumer demand see less illicit market activity, especially for manufactured products like vape pens. We need to cut off some of the illegal market demand by making it easy to purchase legally for any adult. Federal de-scheduling is the ultimate goal, but still may be a several years away. In the meantime, the industry needs to keep lobbying states to legalize adult-use, and as they do, educate consumers on the benefits and safeguards of purchasing on the legal market.

Vape-gate has re-affirmed my commitment to building the most transparent and accountable supply chain in the world. This is an issue of great magnitude requiring a comprehensive and multi-layered approach, and these three responses are not a silver bullet. However, they are steps towards elevating security and ensuring patient and product safety. We have an opportunity to rise up and lead; otherwise, we will lose our ability to dictate how our industry will be led and grown.

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