The news has been a bummer lately

Each week, to prepare for writing this piece, I like to browse around online to read the latest weed news. Lately, that browsing has become depressing.

For a plant that has been consumed by humans for thousands of years, we know shockingly little about cannabis. Which is in large part due to the longstanding federal prohibition of the plant. It used to be that marijuana toxicity was essentially a joke. Overdose deaths were, and still are, thought to be practically impossible.

In recent weeks, however, tragic stories have come out that illustrate just how dangerous this new era of cannabis use can be. They're stories that, hopefully, will become less common as we continue to better understand and regulate pot.

Vape-Related Illness and Death

According to a Sept. 19 release from the Centers for Disease Control, there are over 500 confirmed cases and seven deaths linked to vape-related respiratory illness. Most of the patients treated so far reported a history of using vape products containing THC, while some have reported just using vapes containing nicotine.

While no specific cause of the illness has been confirmed, beyond just vaping, broadly speaking, bootleg or black market THC vape products are suspected to be behind many of the cases. This has led to stories like Rolling Stone's piece from late August titled, "How to Spot a Bootleg Cannabis Vape Cartridge."

This outbreak of vape-related illnesses is due in part to both ignorance and prohibition, because we simply don't know enough about vaping's effects, and because dangerous vape products are finding their way to the market unregulated.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

On Sept. 20, USA Today ran a piece about Brian Smith Jr., a 17-year-old from Indiana who passed away last October. His cause of death was ruled to be cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a rare disease, which is not yet well understood, caused by smoking weed.

According to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, it is a rare condition that occurs only in daily, long-term users of marijuana. One of the main symptoms is nausea, paradoxically a condition cannabis has long been used to treat.

The first confirmed case of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome was reported just 15 years ago. But its prevalence is on the rise, and it appears linked to the increase in potency of marijuana over the past couple of decades. ♦

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