Since the early 1990s marijuana has been at the forefront of popular culture. Although it was used as a symbol in the 1970s to oppose U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, cannabis hadn’t reached its apex.
The 1990s was the decade that made this drug burgeon. World-class entertainers like Chris Rock began including mentions of marijuana in his stand-ups, while more controversial groups like N.W.A told stories embracing the drug as a salient part of their life.
For young adults and teens, marijuana has been included in almost every aspect of culture, including music and movies. Even companies that have no relation to pot include mentions of it to attract the attention of American youth.
The average age of use is younger as 43.6% of high school seniors and 51.5% of young adults 18 to 25 have used marijuana at least once in their life, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In no way is it my place to determine whether this trend is good or bad, however, there is one resulting development that is concerning: THC cartridges. These relatively new, popular portable devices have only been the subject of controversy within the past year as more and more users have been rushed to the hospital with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath and other bodily damage.
More: Three Martin County students taken to hospital after vaping incidents
Professionals are beginning to believe these cases have been caused by fake cartridges. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that “As of October 8, 2019, 1,299 confirmed and probable lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or other vaping products, were reported by 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
Additionally, CDC also reported that among 573 patients who reported various symptoms that matched e-cigarette and vape users, 76% had reported using THC-containing products, with or without nicotine-containing products.
A peculiar case surfaced in Gainesville, Florida, when a college student began noticing his heart was beating unusually fast even when he wasn’t doing any physical activity. These symptoms continued for several weeks and grew to be so alarming that he had to be admitted to a hospital.
After watching the patient and asking questions about his health, it was found the student had been smoking a cartridge called “dank vapes,” not a legal or tested brand. Fortunately, the student was not expected to have lingering health concerns, yet it took several months to recover.
Dank vapes have been scrutinized heavily in recent months as its “branding” is used as a facade to entice naive customers. The seemingly official packaging along with the obtainability of these cartridges (online and in hand-to-hand exchanges) has allowed them to spread nationally in a relatively short time, ultimately leading to more cases like the one in central Florida.
Indeed, no causation between these cases and the use of cartridges, also called carts, can be determined. Many companies (most of which are located on the West Coast) such as Trulieve and Stiiizy, claim their carts do not have these effects. However, frequent marijuana users have begun reverting to the old school method of smoking marijuana flower to avoid these hazards.
The most concerning aspect of these unfolding events is complacency by the federal government. A quick Google search for “united states federal government PSA on THC carts” will unveil that little action has been taken to correct or aid in the recent phenomenon.
Even though there is a federal ban on these cartridges and other THC containing products, the responsibility of spreading awareness about this epidemic ultimately lies in the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Christopher Schulze, a senior at St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach, plans to study communications at George Mason University.