Medical marijuana: State just says no to buds for vaping

Well, that didn’t take long.

In Florida’s quest to keep people from smoking medical marijuana, the state Department of Health ordered an operator to stop selling “whole-flower” products to be used in vaporizers, according to the News Service of Florida.

The Health Department sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trulieve after news reports in the last few days about the sales of the whole flower marijuana in pre-made cups to be used in its volcano vaporizing device.

Whole-flower is the natural form of the marijuana plant, the buds that recreational smokers traditionally have used for decades.

The fear among some was that the cups could easily be dismantled and the whole-flower marijuana smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints — not allowed for patients under Florida’s current medical-marijuana laws.

Only those with a doctor’s approval and on the state’s list can buy from Trulieve, which sells other cannabis products for vaping that is not whole-flower marijuana. It has five stores throughout the state and is one of a handful operating medical marijuana dispensaries currently.

“Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax wrote to Trulieve on Monday.

“Given the above facts, Trulieve is hereby ordered to immediately cease and desist sale of its Entourage product,” Bax wrote.


This all comes in front of the backdrop of the Legislature’s failure the last session to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

The Health Department has to come up with rules governing new medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October.

Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy but John Morgan — the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2 — has pledged to sue the state over the smoking issue.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, in a statement, said the company was surprised by the letter but is “immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

Rivers told the News Service last week she believed the product was legal and that her company had been selling whole-flower products for nearly a year.

Advocates, including Rivers, says vaping whole-flower marijuana creates an “entourage” effect that is better medicinally.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

Other states, of course, allow the sale of whole-flower medical marijuana.

Whole-flower medical marijuana sold at a dispensary in California. Florida lawmakers don’t want such shops here, saying smoking medical cannabis is unhealthy. Photo: Jeff Ostrowski.

To read the whole News Service of Florida story click here.


Medical marijuana law loophole? Store sells buds to vape

As the Florida Legislature passes the buck on instituting rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, a business says it is not breaking any law by selling whole flower marijuana right now that can be vaporized and inhaled.

Trulieve, with five locations now but with plans to expand, says it is not violating state law by selling whole-flower cannabis that can be vaped, for medical necessity, according to a story by News Service of Florida.

Patients must have a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana and go through a process to get into the state program.

The drug comes in a vaporizer cup with the company’s “Volcano Vaporizer,” according to the store’s website. The cups resemble some of the pods used in coffee makers.

And here’s the rub. Vaping pot is allowed under state law but smoking marijuana in a cigarette, pipe or bong remains prohibited.

The medical marijuana dispensary says it is not violating state law by selling the cannabis even though it could be potentially be broken down and made into pot that can be smoked. Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says the company issue warnings to patients that the product should only be used for vaping.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says the company issue warnings to patients that the product should only be used for vaping. She has shops in Miami, Tallahassee, Pensacola, Tampa and Clearwater.

Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambinieri said the product was approved by the Office of Compassionate Use.  Medical marijuana supporters have advocated for whole-flower, saying it is better medicinally.

All six of Florida’s distributing organizations that are authorized to sell cannabis have vaping products. Trulieve is the first that is selling a whole-flower product. Other vaping products use cannabis that is ground up.

The Legislature last session failed to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

That leaves it up to the Department of Health to come up with rules governing medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October. Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy.

According to the Health Department, 80 percent of cannabis sales are vaping.

John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who was one of the key figures in getting the amendment passed last November, has said he would sue if the new rules did not allow smoking. The rules are supposed to be in place in July and implemented in October.

“For them not to allow smoking, that is the opposite of what the amendment says. The only place where it says it can’t be smoked is public places,” Morgan told The Associated Press.

Congress deals vape industry another blow – but battle far from over

A provision to protect mom-and-pop vape shops from an industry-destroying FDA regulation died in the current budget battle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats.

The Democrats were intent on killing any of Trump’s “poison pills” in the current budget deal, and while most of the attention was on the president’s border wall — you know the one Mexico was going to pay for — the provision to protect the vape industry became collateral damage.

The Cole-Bishop Amendment would have restricted the Food & Drug”s deeming” regulations to e-cigarette products sold as of Aug. 8, 2016 that fails to grandfather in existing products, whether it be devices or liquids. To get FDA approval for each product could cost millions of dollars and put many companies out of business, the industry says.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement that death of Cole-Bishop “delivers critical victories for America’s kids and health over the tobacco industry by rejecting proposals to greatly weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars and slash funding for the CDC’s programs to reduce tobacco use.”

But while American health officials deride electronic cigarettes, there is little evidence that they are even remotely as deadly as traditional tobacco.

In England, health officials have promoted vaping and electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, but in the U.S. there has been a concerted effort to rein in the hundreds of small businesses that have sprouted up around the industry.

The vaping industry says the reason is clear: they take away profits not only from Big Tobacco, but the pharmaceutical industry peddling cessation patches and gums, as well as the government that heavily taxes cigarettes.

Read the Palm Beach Post’s investigation into whether health officials claims on vaping are legit by clicking here. 

Greg Conley of the American Vaping Industry vows the fight to roll back FDA regulations is far from over.

Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Industry, says the fight is far from over with a separate bill, HR 1136, sponsored by Democrats that mimics Cole-Bishop.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has also introduced HR 2194, The Cigarette Smoking Reduction & Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act.

“This budget is done with, but they need to come back in October and pass the FY 2018 budget,” he said. “The appropriations committees will likely start on that again soon and we will be pushing for Cole-Bishop or similar language to again be included.”

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi.

In the meantime, Conley warns politicians who carry water for Big Tobacco against the vaping industry. He said if Democrats want to motivate millennial voters to come out to vote against the party, then dare to oppose measures to protect this alternative to traditional tobacco.

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi, said while last week was disappointing, there are several avenues for the industry to pursue still in Congress.

“In addition to a handful of lawsuits filed against the FDA that are working themselves through the legal system, there is the bill introduced last week by Rep. Duncan Hunter,” he said. “That bill places e-cigarettes in a new category for harm-reduction products to move people off of tobacco-containing cigarettes.”

What is it like to vape? This reporter gave it a try.

I first started smoking cigarettes when I was 12, stealing from my grandmother’s purse. Marlboros. It’s been a battle against Mother Nicotine ever since.

I’ve gone years without smoking cigarettes, satiating my tobacco need through cigars even chewing tobacco. Eventually, though I would be back smoking coffin nails.

Being inherently clumsy, my habit was everywhere to be found. Filled ash trays. Lighters in every nook and cranny of the house. My car seats were always had burns.

I’m lucky I haven’t perished in flames on the highway. Somehow, once I threw a cigarette out the window and it blew back into the car and smoldered on the back seat.

I tried a disposable e-cigarette on one car trip and felt it was so inorganic that it was a non-starter.

But after doing a story on the vaping industry last month I thought I thought I’d give vaping a try as an experiment.

Recently, I had moved on from my Newport cigarettes to cigarillos but was now up to three a day. And the grief – as any traditional smoker can attest – from family members about the smell was growing to a deafening din. My wife said it was her No. 1 “turn-off.” Ouch.

Now two weeks into vaping, I can tell you that I haven’t picked up a traditional tobacco product. I haven’t even wanted to smoke a cigarillo. My cigars in my humidor have gone untouched.

Still, this passion-in-the-making hasn’t been without its pitfalls. And it’s been quite a learning curve for a 50-year-old someone as clumsy as me.

First of all are the safety concerns from health officials, including our own Dr. Alina Alonso at the Health Department in Palm Beach County. She fears vaping is appealing to kids because the e-juice used to vape comes in as many flavors as there are in a candy store.

As addressed in my vaping culture story, the warnings are said to be suspicious by the vaping industry considering health officials in England has endorsed electronic cigarettes as a much better alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products.

The ingredients in “e-juice” of propylene glycol, glycerin, water and nicotine seem pretty straight-forward. Last I checked, there are 599 different additives to cigarettes. Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association says these additives have an anti-depressant effect on the smoker and that this is the real reason why they are harder to kick than heroin.

The vaping industry is not corporate – or at least not nearly as corporate – as traditional tobacco.

CLOUD CHASER. Ryna Schalk demonstrates her vape at E Vapor Squad in Wellington. (Photo: John Pacenti)

Vapinig proponents say everyone is losing money to the upstart industry: the government through taxes, tobacco companies through the sale of cigarettes, and pharmaceutical companies from the sale of cessation products such as patches or gum.

The Food and Drug Administration is set to clamp down further on the industry, possibly even driving it out of business. Which would be an interesting, because it is – like I reported previously – an amazing mom-and-pop American entrepreneurial story. So either the U.S. government is about encouraging small businesses or it is all just button-pushing rhetoric.

Then, there is that learning curve.

First off. It’s not cheap. At least, not to get started.

There is the vape, there is the e-juice, there is figuring out what kind of e-juice you like and purchase of rechargeable batteries. Then there are the replacement parts that make the vape work.  I’ve easily spent close to $300 in the last month getting this thing up and running — after some missteps — and I’m still far from perfecting it.

But if you are the obsessive-compulsive type, vaping will fit right into your lifestyle. Besides flavor choices, there are as many types of vapes and e-cigarettes as there are stars in the sky. Figuring out what apparatus to buy is daunting.

I bought an e-cigarette type device that was not to my liking. I thought it would be closest to cigarettes but didn’t fit the bill. I then settled on a vape sold by Smok, an AL85, with a tank called the “Baby Beast” for its efficiency.

Immediately, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work and had to head back to the store to find out how to set it up. My first embarrassment, but not my last.

I bought some tobacco-flavored juice and something called Mr. Brunch, which aims to taste like stuffed French toast in blueberry syrup.  I had to get familiar with e-juice terms such as the PG/VG ratio which dictates flavor, vapor production and harshness – what vapers call throat hits.

I also had to settle on my nicotine level. I found that 12 mg was too harsh. Some juice I bought was nicotine-free and was a waste of money. It was supposed to taste my black-and-mild cigarillos. Not exactly.

Now my mind was racing. What was the best juice for me? I got a pumpkin pie flavor one and another called Bacon Maple Sin, which was delicious.

I had to learn how to put the vape together properly so it didn’t leak. I lost a lot of liquid at first.

But that was only part of my education.

The liquid is heated by an atomizer, which – guess what? – comes in many different sizes and configurations for my device. The atomizer is inside a tank, which holds the liquid.

The heating element is the coil. Some coils are better for taste. Some are better for producing vapor – or clouds.

The cotton or wick surrounding the coil burns out and when that happens the sweet spot you get with your vape evaporates like – well you know what – and it tastes awful.

The coil dilemma has been the most frustrating part. I learned the hard way – actually still learning –that you had to prime your wick so as not to burn the cotton that surrounds right away.

Also, it is not unusual to get a bad coil and I got a few of them just by bad luck. Two in one pack right off the bat – not discounting operator error.

Those who really like flavor use “drippers,” atomizers where the e-juice is dripped in a little at a time. They take some work but aficionados swear by them.

So right now I’m waiting to see if the third coil from the pack does the job and delivers the flavor I was experiencing just yesterday. It is steeping.

But there is no doubt I’m obsessed. And now some millennial vapers are thinking “what a tool” but the fact is I haven’t smoked a cigarette or cigarillo in two weeks.

There is indeed a tight vaping community at the many little stores that have popped up over the nation. The local ones have been more than willing to help me and to discuss all issues vape.

And, finally, the family reaction has been positive for the most part. The wife is not happy about the money outlay to get this thing started. But there is no longer the endless criticism about “my cigar smell.”

And it is a stress reliever, an oral fixation once fulfilled by the cigarette – something I was skeptical it could replace. I’ve even entertained my youngest lately by struggling to blow vape rings.

Now, if I can just get the dang new coil to work.