Updated: Nov 5, 2019
By Alexander Nieves 11/04/2019 07:51 PM EST
RICHMOND — More than 80 of California’s largest cannabis companies and trade groups have formed a new coalition as the industry faces the looming threat of statewide and local vaping bans.
In a letter addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration and the heads of the three California agencies overseeing cannabis policy, the Legal Cannabis for Consumer Safety coalition requested a meeting with top state officials to discuss policy recommendations related to a vaping-related health epidemic that has killed 37 and sickened nearly 1,900 nationwide.
While the coalition's recommendations mirror those pushed by the industry in the last few months — clamping down on the illegal market and increasing regulations on products — the coalition is notable because it’s the largest unified advocacy group formed by an industry that has typically been disjointed since adult recreational marijuana was legalized in 2016.
“Ultimately this vaping situation really forced us all to come together to acknowledge that this is real and to figure out how we can play a part in solving it,” said Josh Drayton, communications director for the California Cannabis Industry Association.
"We are all entities that acknowledge the industry could possibly collapse if we don't combine our efforts," he added.
The announcement of the new coalition comes a few weeks after an Assembly hearing where it was clear that lawmakers plan to send Newsom legislation banning either flavored vapes or vapes altogether by early next year.
The industry is hoping to position itself as a resource for lawmakers and public health officials on legal vaping data while distinguishing itself from an illicit market that cannabis companies say is fueling the crisis.
“We agree: It is unacceptable that Californians face risks from unregulated and unsafe vapes,” the letter reads. “It is also critical that — like any other public health issue — we implement effective solutions that are based on data and facts, rather than fear, to address the root cause of these issues.”
When asked about the letter and policy recommendation, a spokesperson for the administration declined to comment, instead pointing to past comments from Nicole Elliott, Newsom’s senior cannabis adviser, that the state is actively working with the industry to find a solution to the crisis.