14 Apr 2024

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Should I Be Worried About Phytol in My Medical Cannabis Vapes?
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Should I Be Worried About Phytol in My Medical Cannabis Vapes? 

One of the main reasons for maintaining medical cannabis programs in states where recreational use is legalized is the belief that doing so allows state regulators to better control medical products. After all, patients don’t want to have to worry about using products that are unsafe. For example, many cannabis users worry about a substance known as phytol.

Phytol is a naturally occurring diterpene found in cannabis plants. It is sometimes used by illicit vape manufactures to dilute cannabis oil for the purposes of making it go further. There is some concern that phytol is harmful to human health.

The question is whether you should worry about phytol in your medical cannabis vapes. In a word, probably not. As long as you are buying medical cannabis products from a licensed pharmacy approved by the state in which it is located, you should be all right. But pay attention to cannabis news, nonetheless.

A Scary Canadian Study

The current phytol scare is the result of a Canadian study done a couple of years ago. The study was conducted by one of Canada’s largest dispensary chains, Canopy Growth. It was kept secret until people began questioning why Canopy suddenly pulled all its vape products off store shelves without explanation.

Through the Canadian equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act, the study was made public. Needless to say that it shocked the medical cannabis community in Canada. It turns out that phytol might not only be harmful, but it might also be extremely harmful.

Why It’s in Vapes

As previously explained, illicit vape manufacturers sometimes use phytol to dilute cannabis oil. But in Canada, manufacturers have been using it as a flavor and odor additive. Phytol has a slightly grassy odor and taste. Adding it for that purpose is no different than adding any other terpene to come up with a specific profile.

So where’s the danger? Right now, there is not enough science to prove anything. But the thinking is that exposing phytol to excessive heat – which is what happens with a vape device – might inadvertently convert it into a synthetic vitamin E.

Some years ago, a significant number of CBD vapors came down with a serious lung condition known as EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury). There were some deaths reported. After a thorough investigation, it was revealed that EVALI’s primary cause was the inhalation of vitamin E acetate.

Vape manufacturers in the US have since stopped using the substance. The thinking is that phytol could be transformed into a synthetic vitamin E during vaping, thereby causing the same problems associated with vitamin E acetate.

No Phytol in Utah

Medical cannabis users are encouraged to check the ingredients of every vape product they buy for the presence of phytol. It is not likely that very many US manufacturers are using it. Above and beyond, patients can check with state regulators to see if they have any information.

According to Beehive Farmacy out of Salt Lake City, Utah regulators just released a statement as part of their August 2022 program update explaining that testing of both medical cannabis and CBD products thus far has not revealed the presence of phytol in any of them. So in Utah, things are good for now.

In all likelihood, you will not have a problem with phytol in medical cannabis products made by licensed manufacturers and sold by licensed pharmacies. But if you are ever concerned, check labels for ingredients. You can also check a company’s certificate of analysis (CoA) to find out exactly what is in a product you’re considering buying.

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