December 6, 2023

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Pa. DOH orders second review of medical cannabis vape products

2 min read

All vaporized medical marijuana products containing additional ingredients will be reviewed, even if they had been previously approved.

RED LION, Pa. — An email from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program went out at 11:12 p.m. on Dec. 1, warning all 633,000 medical marijuana patients in the state that cannabis vape products with added ingredients “may not be safe for inhalation.”

On Nov. 16 another email informed the state’s medical marijuana growers and processors of a statewide review of all vaporized medical marijuana products containing additional ingredients, even if they had been previously approved. Cannabis vape products not submitted for the review would need to be recalled, and growers and processors who knowingly sold a recalled product could face penalties, including the “suspending the sale of your entire line of vaporized products.” 

All permittees had until Nov. 30 to comply.

“Honestly we were all surprised by the moves from the Department of Health,” said Dr. Steven Groff, founder of cannabis medical research company Groff North America.

The additives in question are likely terpenes, Groff said. Terpenes are the aromatic, naturally occurring compounds, that give many flowers and plants their scents. Cannabis contains a mix of terpenes that form its unique scent; some studies suggest this mix enhances the effect of THC and CBD in a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect.”

Medical cannabis vape products sometimes contain added synthetic terpenes.

“These ingredients are widely used and approved across medical and recreational cannabis markets across the country,” said Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition.

However there are few studies on the safety of added terpenes in these vape products.

“We generally feel that if only the natural oil is used and no other additives, we think that’s generally safe, although again as a physician, I’ll say we need more study,” Groff said. “My gut would say [added terpenes are not dangerous], but the issue is also where did that lavender terpene come from, how was it extracted, does it have other compounds in it that could be harmful when a person inhales it?”

Groff hopes to help catalyze more studies, as his company is one of just five approved by the FDA and DEA to grow cannabis for research. Their first study is examining the antibacterial properties of THC and CBD.

The DOH’s review will likely take several weeks, Groff said. The recall of some cannabis vape products could affect supply for patients, Buettner said.

DOH could not be reached for details on why the review was necessary.

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