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Wed Dec 18 2019 21:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Michigan recalls vitamin E-contaminated vaping products, says system is working

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LANSING, MI -- Michigan on Tuesday, Dec. 17, recalled vaping products containing vitamin E acetate, the banned ingredient suspected of causing 52 lung-related deaths and more than 2,400 hospitalizations nationwide since March.

The recalls involve vaping cartridges sold by Elite Wellness dispensaries in Mount Morris and Bay City prior to Nov. 22, when the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency banned all vaping product sales until they could be tested for the presence of vitamin E acetate. The state on Tuesday also recalled product that Larren Investments, a Warren-based grower, purchased with the intent of distributing to dispensaries. That product never made it to retail store shelves.

“The recall affected 64,724 cartridges, of which approximately 5,000 were sold and approximately 60,000 will be destroyed,” Marijuana Regulatory Agency spokesman David Harns said.

The recall includes:

Elite Wellness, 3389 S Huron Rd. Suite 3, Bay City, MI 48706, 989-439-1711

  • Fruit Loops-, Trix- and Frankenberry-flavored Cereal brand cartridges

  • Durban Poison-, Mimosa-, and Tangie-flavored Dank Vapes brand cartridges

Elite Wellness, 9423 N. Dort Highway, Mount Morris, MI 48458, 810-687-8888

  • Honey Nut Cheerios-, Trix-, Captain- and Cocoa Puffs-flavored Cereal brand cartridges

  • Grape soda- and gelato-flavored Monopoly brand cartridges

  • Princess Pie-flavored Royal Highness brand cartridges

  • Sunday Driver-flavored Savage Stick brand cartridges

Larren Investments, Warren MI

  • WCE brand Gelato, Sour Diesel, Blueberry and Skywalker OG distillate

“Everything that is on our shelves right now is in state compliance and meets all testing requirements,” Chad Wurtzel, the owner of Elite Wellness, said Wednesday. " ... It’s going to be costly for us. Just the destruction cost alone is going to be very expensive but it’s what needs to happen."

Wurtzel said his company had no clue it was selling contaminated vaping cartridges.

“It was never our intention at all and we are working with the state to fix it,” he said. “And there’s only one way to fix it and that’s for them to come out and destroy the (cartridges).”

The contaminated product was purchased from caregivers prior to a ban on that practice that took effect in May. Prior to May, dispensaries could purchase and sell untested, untracked marijuana and marijuana products from medical marijuana caregivers.

While not technically legal -- caregivers may only provide marijuana to up to five designated patients under law -- the medical marijuana licensing board that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disbanded in March said it wouldn’t penalize dispensaries for selling product acquired from caregivers. The allowance was a response to marijuana shortages in the licensed market.

The state still allows caregiver product to make its way to licensed and tested market; however, it must now be sold to a licensed grower or processor that in turn tests it before wholesaling to dispensaries. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency does not require growers or processors to track or record the source of their caregiver product.

This is how Larren Investments acquired it’s since-recalled vaping cartridges. MLive was unable to reach Larren Investments representatives for comment.

“This is the system working," Marijuana Regulatory Agency spokesman David Harns said. “We identified a threat, we put rules in place to make sure that product did not make its way to customers.”

Licensed processors and growers aren’t required to test newly manufactures vaping products for vitamin E acetate, since it’s now banned, but product received from unlicensed caregivers must still be tested, Harns said.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t contaminated vaping products still being inhaled by medical marijuana customers who purchased from dispensaries prior to Nov. 22.

“Oh Yeah, I have no doubt," Lev Spivak-Birndorf, the chief science officer and co-founder of PSI Labs in Ann Arbor said when asked if he suspected there might be more positive tests for vitamin E acetate and recalls in the future.

He said the biggest threat are the “grandfathered” vaping products that remain in the marketplace.

“It is a bit scary if you think about some of it,” he said.

PSI Labs is currently testing vaping products that existed at the time the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency banned vitamin E acetate.

“We still have a long ways to go,” Spivak-Birndorf said. “As far as (untested) product that is out there, there’s a lot left.”

Meanwhile, vaping products that have passed testing are increasingly returning to store shelves at medical and recreational dispensaries across the state.

Vitamin E acetate is a filler added to THC distillates derived from marijuana. It’s the deceptive addition of a cheaper substance that dilutes potency and boosts profits. Until the recent detection by PSI Labs, vitamin E acetate had only previously been discovered in black market, unlicensed products.


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