OLCC Identifies Potential Consumer Harm In Some Cannabis Vape Products

Voluntary recall started because non-cannabis additives had undisclosed ingredients

Investigation continues to determine impact across Oregon’s legal cannabis industry

OREGON:  As part of an on-going consumer product safety investigation, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has identified that marijuana products sold in Oregon’s recreational marijuana market during the last two years contained additives, squalene and squalane, that have been linked to safety concerns similar to Vitamin E Acetate when vaped and inhaled. The OLCC is working to trace products and when necessary remove them from sale. OLCC will be considering immediate action at its December 2020 Commission meeting to prohibit future use of squalene and squalane, institute a mandatory recall of affected products, and create a more stringent and transparent review process of cannabis vaping products going forward.

Recreational retail shops won’t be open until October.

The products under investigation by OLCC contained Viscosity, a non-cannabis diluent manufactured and sold by a third-party (non-OLCC marijuana licensee). Some of the product remains on the market, and the OLCC is working to trace and remove it.

Bulk Naturals LLC., dba True Terpenes, sold Viscosity that solely contained squalene, squalane, and an unidentified olive extract to OLCC recreational marijuana licensees between at least January 2018 and November 2019. Squalene is a “botanically-derived terpene” that can be derived from olives; squalane is the hydrogenated version of squalene. Following OLCC’s confirmation of the presence of squalane in Viscosity via independent laboratory analysis by ChemHistory and SC Labs, True Terpenes has complied with all of OLCC’s requests for information. Viscosity has since been reformulated, and according to True Terpenes, none of their products have contained squalene or squalane since November 2019.

As a result of its investigation the OLCC has identified recreational marijuana licensees that potentially used Viscosity in their products.  Because of their purchase of Viscosity, OLCC has requested additional information from several licensees about products they have manufactured.

One licensee – Oregrown, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Bend – swiftly provided the requested documentation. Oregrown was the first licensee to confirm its use of the Viscosity formula under investigation, and since then has been working with the OLCC to voluntarily recall the limited amount of its remaining product containing Viscosity. OLCC has provided Oregrown with the information regarding affected items still on the market and their current location.

Oregrown utilized Viscosity in making Oregrown PAX Era D9 Elite style vaping products manufactured on or prior to August 31, 2019. Although Oregrown has reformulated its PAX product to no longer include Viscosity, the previously manufactured items containing the prior Viscosity formula remain in the market. The most recent sales from Oregrown PAX Era D9 Elite products containing this prior Viscosity formula were in October 2020.

In all, between April 2018 and October 2020, 268 OLCC licensed recreational marijuana retailers sold this item.

Consumers can verify the date of manufacture and whether an item they have purchased is subject to this recall. Any Oregrown PAX Era D9 Elite item with the label identification of “2520” and made before August 31, 2019 should be destroyed by the consumer or returned to the retailer where the item was purchased.

The OLCC has found that Oregrown was NOT aware of the contents of Viscosity and didn’t know that it contained potentially harmful ingredients. At the time that Oregrown used Viscosity, the manufacturer, True Terpenes, did not publicly disclose any of Viscosity’s ingredients due to claims of trade secret protections. Oregrown has provided all information that OLCC has requested, and its products complied with OLCC’s labeling rules at the time. OLCC expects that other licensees will act just as swiftly in order to ensure consumer safety by assisting the Commission in identifying and removing these potentially harmful products from the market.

The OLCC has been concerned about the presence of undisclosed ingredients in cannabis vaping products, and during the last year has been examining the use of non-cannabis additives. As part of this review OLCC has gathered evidence that certain additives pose potential danger to consumers.

At the same time the OLCC has suspected that these unhealthy additives had already been introduced into Oregon’s recreational marijuana system without the knowledge of licensees. The OLCC has been investigating the presence of unknown additives in cannabis vape products, which led to OLCC’s independent discovery of squalene and squalane tainted products.

OLCC recently commissioned a study that determined that when exposed to heat, squalene and squalane produce harmful chemicals. It has also been documented that inhaling squalene has been associated with exogenous lipoid pneumonia. Initial evidence about these additives also suggests a potential for consumer harm similar to that already proven about Vitamin E Acetate.

In light of these recent findings, OLCC staff will be proposing two actions at OLCC’s December 17, 2020, Commission meeting. One will be an action that would declare squalene and squalane adulterants; if approved by the Commission, any items in Oregon’s regulated market to which squalene or squalane have been added would be subject to a mandatory public health and safety recall. The second proposed action will be rules regarding cannabis vaping products that have been under development since July 2020; these rules would establish greater transparency and accountability regarding non-cannabis ingredients, like Viscosity, that are used in cannabis vaping products sold in the OLCC system.

OLCC is continuing its investigation into licensees that purchased Viscosity during the relevant time frame in order to confirm whether it was used in any other vaping products that were sold to consumers. If it is determined that other licensees used the prior formulation of Viscosity without proper disclosure on the item’s label, or have withheld information from the OLCC regarding the use of Viscosity, OLCC will pursue compliance action against those licensees as necessary. Additional health and safety recalls may be issued as more information is discovered.

Cannabis Technology Company HERB Raises $4.1 Million In Seed Funding

CALIFORNIA: Cannabis technology company HERB has announced it has raised $4.1 million in seed funding. According to a company press release funding will go towards the launch of its new technology platform, the growth of HERB’s video studios, key new hires, and two new office locations in Los Angeles and New York.

The round was led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures with participation from Slow Ventures, Michael Lazerow, Bullpen Capital, Shiva Rajarama, Liquid 2 Ventures, Tobi LutkeHarley Finkelstein, and Adam Zeplain.

“During our research into the cannabis industry, it became clear to both myself and our team at Liquid 2 Ventures that HERB was the most professionally run business for relevant, informative, cannabis content,” said Joe Montana, hall of fame quarterback and investor in HERB. “With the trend quickly leaning toward national or even global legalization, we think it will be imperative that there is a reliable source of educational content, which will ensure that cannabis consumers are well-informed about the benefits as well as the risks of using the plant.”

HERB is dedicated to bringing high-quality cannabis content to its rapidly growing audience. With this round of funding, HERB will be able to further its presence in the cannabis space, and establish the company as the go-to resource for everything cannabis related. HERB’s mission is to eliminate the stigma surrounding cannabis and open people’s minds to the medicinal potential of the plant. HERB’s platform allows people to find the best strain for their medical conditions, discover new products, and be entertained by compelling video content. In the coming month, HERB will host a launch event to unveil the features of the new technology platform.

“There was a void in the marketplace and HERB filled it,” said Eric Hippeau managing partner of Lerer Hippeau Ventures. “Because the market is so new, brands wanted to establish themselves and reach consumers, and consumers wanted to know more about sellers, products, legislation, and all other content related to the cannabis business. HERB has been that go-to place for consumers, brands, and anyone who’s looking for information about the industry.”

According to Tubular Labs, as of June 2017, HERB’s engagement rivals that of top mainstream publications, reaching 5.3 million unique viewers per month. Additionally, since April 2017, HERB’s reach has grown at a rapid pace with more than 200 million video views per month (30% growth month-over-month), 8.7 million Facebook likes, and 600,000 Instagram followers.

Earlier this month, HERB also announced the launch of its new weekly video series, Smoke Sessions, which showcases a mix of vibrant personalities, unique personal stories, and educational cannabis content. Upon launch, the series went viral in a matter of 48 hours, receiving over six million views.

“This is a monumental moment for HERB and a testament to the shift of public view on the cannabis industry,” said Matt Gray, CEO and founder of HERB. “As we usher in a new and diverse demographic of cannabis consumers, investors are seeing the value in the cannabis industry and importance of having a reliable technology platform to educate and inform consumers.”