Fewer vaping injuries reported in states with legal weed, according to study

Canna Obscura, Shutterstock

States with legal recreational marijuana had fewer cases of vaping-related lung injuries than other states, according to a study published earlier this month by JAMA Network Open.

No surprise here: earlier research found that the culprit behind the injuries was likely vitamin E acetate, a substance used in black-market marijuana vaping products. If people could easily get legal marijuana, it would be less likely that they would turn to the black market.

To conduct the study, researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on electronic cigarette- or vaping-
associated lung injury (EVALI) cases from states, factoring in population and the prevalence of e-cigarette use.

The study found that states with legal recreational marijuana dispensaries had 1.7 cases of EVALI per million people, while states that prohibit adult-use cannabis had 8.1 cases per million. (States with only medical marijuana saw 8.8 EVALI cases per one million residents, which was not statistically significant.)

click to enlarge Brackets represent the range of EVALI cases per million, and dashed lines represent the mean by state marijuana policy. - JAMA NETWORK OPEN
Jama Network Open
Brackets represent the range of EVALI cases per million, and dashed lines represent the mean by state marijuana policy.

“The data suggest that EVALI cases were concentrated in states where consumers do not have legal access to recreational marijuana dispensaries,” the study’s authors wrote. “This association was not driven by state‐​level differences in e‑cigarette use, and EVALI case rates were not associated with state‐​level prevalence of e‑cigarette use. One possible inference from our results is that the presence of legal markets for marijuana has helped mitigate or may be protective against EVALI.”

In the study, Michigan was considered a medical marijuana state, even though we voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018. The researchers considered a state a recreational marijuana state if it had a recreational marijuana law and at least 1 recreational dispensary open in the state by Jan. 1, 2019. Michigan's first legal recreational sales technically began on Dec. 1, but recreational stores were not very widespread until this year. (Detroit still doesn't have any recreational stores, however.)

Michigan — which legalized medical marijuana in 2008, the first Midwestern state to do so — ranked on the low end of states with EVALI cases, with results similar to those of the mean for states with recreational weed.

In November, Michigan made it mandatory that marijuana dispensaries test all products for vitamin E acetate.

You can read the full study here.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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