In Colorado, proposed legislation to ban vaping in public could have a staggering effect on cannabis consumers. House Bill 1076 would amend the state's Clean Indoor Air Act to include all e-cigarettes — meaning that any kind of vaporizer, be it for cannabis or tobacco, would be banned in restaurants, workplaces, and all indoor public areas (including some residential rentals), as well as outdoors within 25 feet of public buildings and workplaces.
While the law seems to be a logical backlash against the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, especially among kids, it evokes a major question: Should cannabis vaporizers be included in the campaign to bring down vaping?
"By banning the indoor use of vaporization products, they're blocking the legal use of cannabis indoors and outdoors, except in edible form," said cannabis activist and lobbyist Cindy Sovine, noting that outdoor public cannabis consumption is also already illegal. "That's a big public policy decision that's being made under the guise of e-cigarettes." Not to mention, it's illegal anyways for children to possess e-cigarettes in school, let alone in general if they're under 21.
For some, vaping cannabis can literally be a matter of life and death. "A [medical marijuana] patient who's sitting at work having a seizure can take a discrete hit of their vape pen and control their seizure," Sovine pointed out. "What are they supposed to do now? Pop an edible and wait an hour? That doesn't take into account that edibles aren't an efficient delivery method at all."
In fact, vaping cannabis provides the highest bioavailability to the patient, she explained. "You're getting the most bang for your buck, and it's going directly to your bloodstream."
The ramifications of this bill would also cripple cannabis consumption lounges, inside which smoking and vaping would hence be prohibited. Sovine said that she's hoping there could be an amendment to the bill to exempt cannabis entirely, or at least to exempt cannabis from the Clean Indoor Air Act, as it would apply to holders of cannabis hospitality licenses (i.e. lounges). If legislators won't consider written exemption for marijuana, CBD, and hemp-derived CBD, then activists say they're ready to oppose the bill altogether.
Another consequence of HB 1076 would fall on veterans, who not only may consume cannabis to treat PTSD, but who also may live in HUD (government) housing. "They cannot consume outside and risk getting ticketed and thrown in jail, and they can't now consume [via] vaping inside at all," Sovine said. "Vets with PTSD are screwed. They're by default in government-assisted housing and they can't access cananbis for an anxiety attack."
According to registered nurse Katherine Golden, CEO of educational platform Leaf411, at least half the medical cannabis patients she knows use inhalation as a route of administration. "As a practitioner, I've encouraged them to switch to vaping, versus combustion," she said, noting that vaporization bypasses exposure to carcinogens from burnt material.
With a hearing scheduled for this Wednesday (this is the fourth time the hearing has been rescheduled), activists will be asking legislators to vote "no" on the bill. "The reasons why are that they're putting marijuana in this bill, and marijuana is a medicine," Golden explained. "It needs to be based on symptoms, breakthrough pain. Whereas nicotine is a totally different animal."