Op-Ed: “Mysterious” Vape Sickness Is Really Caused By New York’s Legislative Laziness

In August, it was reported by Gothamist that 11 people were experiencing respiratory illnesses that are being blamed on THC and nicotine vape pens. This progressed into a spate of deaths linked to black market vapes purported to contain vitamin e oil.

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement, “While many people consider vaping to be a less dangerous alternative to smoking cigarettes, it is not risk free. These latest reports of pulmonary disease in people using vaping products in New York and other states are proof that more study is needed on the long-term health effects of these products.”

When profits are on the line, the NY state government is quick to cash in, to nudge things along when big businesses come knocking as they have started to here in New York, but when health is on the line, they are slow to act until it has to do with cannabis. 

Being a born New Yorker, I have seen the War on Drugs persist my entire life, cranking onward today still even after repeated redirection of the NYPD. This unjust policy perpetuates modern-day-slavery that effects thousands, primarily New Yorkers of Black and Latinx heritage, and answers are only just now being demanded?

If cannabis was legalized eons ago as it should have been, a black market specifically serving vaping customers would be minuscule at best. Vapes may have never even become the trend they had if discretion wasn’t a crucial part of most people’s cannabis experience. 

Even now with a New York State medical cannabis card, if I wanted a THC vape, I’d have one “flavor” choice, with multiple strengths, at my local dispensary, with one gram costing over $120.

For that same price, my local serve would give me 10 options, and the budget would cover three pens plus a tip. The fear lies in the supply chain, which in dispensaries comes with a paper trail, and just a handshake with your delivery service. 

Illegal, dangerous vapes are only a problem because our government refuses to get it together. Maybe the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Governor Andrew Cuomo got from the cannabis industry were to delay legalization, not speed it up. Until our officials get their act together, people will keep getting sick, but even more people will continue to go to jail. Neither is acceptable. 

Emerald contributor since May 2017

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