Meet the judge who just put the KIBOSH on Michigan’s vape ban

Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims ruled against Governor Gretchen Whitmer yesterday by shutting down her self-imposed statewide ban on flavored vapes.  Just as news was breaking in early September of an alleged outbreak of mysterious “vaping-related” lung injuries occurring across the country, Whitmer immediately overreacted to the unconfirmed reporting.  She signed an executive order which went into effect on October 2 and focused more on the prohibition of nicotine-based flavors rather than Black Market THC-based cartridges.

Two Michigan vape shops immediately filed a lawsuit based on their contention that Gov. Whitmer’s actions were “procedurally invalid.”  Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that Whitmer failed to demonstrate why rushing an executive order was preferable to the normal legislative process of passing a conventional bill approved by both houses of the state congress.

Judge Stephens sides with the plaintiffs. 

In one section of her ruling, the judge states that the improved health outcomes of the adult vaping community of former smokers “could, and likely would, be lost under the emergency rules.”  According to ABC News, Judge Stephens also blasted the governor for her seemingly rash executive actions.  Stephens writes that if teen vaping were such an emergent issue, then why hadn’t Whitmer and the state congress taken legislative action months or even years ago?

“Thus, and at this stage of the litigation, defendants have undercut their own assertions of an emergency by the fact that they demurred on taking action for nearly a year, and in the case of some information even longer than that, after they were in possession of the information cited in support of the emergency declaration.”

The judge also came to the defense of the two plaintiffs in her published remarks – 906 Vapor based in Houghton and the A Clean Cigarette chain.  The latter had previously operated about twenty local vape shops throughout the state at the time of the filing, but it has since been forced to close at least five of those stores due to Whitmer’s recent statewide vape ban. 

Related Article:  Amid growing fears of Black Market THC, Michigan Gov promotes Black Market e-liquids by banning flavored vapes

The owner of 906 Vapor, Marc Slis, had also been forced to close his shop on October 1, the day before the Michigan flavor ban officially went into effect.  He was also very close to filing for bankruptcy when the judge’s Tuesday ruling was officially announced.  According to the Detroit Free Press. Judge Stephens believes the governor’s actions were unnecessarily destructive to local businesses. 

“Not only has plaintiff A Clean Cigarette lost a significant percentage of its sales and closed several stores due to the ban, the ban will force plaintiff to rebrand itself entirely…In essence, the emergency rules will destroy plaintiff A Clean Cigarette’s business as it currently exists,” writes Judge Stephens.

By signing her now-defunct executive order, Governor Whitmer made Michigan the first state in the union to implement a statewide flavor ban on vaping products.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, Montana, and New York have immediately followed suit.

The battle over flavored vaping in Michigan continues.

Whitmer, of course, is outraged by the court’s ruling.  In a public statement released immediately following the publication of the judge’s remarks, she once against shifts the focus from the intentional destruction and bankruptcy of small businesses in Michigan to an unsubstantiated “youth vaping crisis” that is allegedly plaguing the nation.

“This decision is wrong. It misreads the law and sets a dangerous precedent of a court second-guessing the expert judgment of public health officials dealing with a crisis,” Whitmer says in a public statement. “The explosive increase in youth vaping is a public health emergency, and we must do everything we can to protect our kids from its harmful effects.”

Coincidentally, Judge Stephens ruling mimics another decision of an Appellate Court in New York earlier this month which temporarily stopped Gov. Cuomo’s executive order banning flavored vapes until at least October 18.  At that time, all parties will have the opportunity to plead their case to the New York Supreme Court.       

For Michigan, the battle over flavored vaping will also continue.  Judge Stephens further writes, “This is not a final order and it neither resolves the last pending claim nor closes the case.” Lawyers of the plaintiffs say they are “looking forward to a full trial on the merits of our case.”

Related Article:  Ex-NY Mayor Bloomberg spends $160 million to kill vaping; Cuomo butt-kisses Bloomberg

(Image courtesy of The Detroit Free Press)

from VAPES – VAPES News Blog

Ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb: Vaping-related lung injuries ‘correlated with the use of THC’

The mainstream media has been grossly negligent in its coverage of the months-long scandal surrounding “vaping-related” lung injuries, but things may be slowly beginning to change.  In a Monday television appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb came to the defense of conventional nicotine-based vaping products.  He also clearly states that Black Market THC-infused cartridges – not nicotine-based vapes – are to blame for the respiratory disease outbreak.

“Now it seems clear that a lot of these vaping-related illnesses – if not all of them – are corelated with the use of THC vapes. So, the second-most common form of delivering THC – the active ingredient of marijuana – right now is vaping the liquid itself, not burning the flower.  Burning the flower is #1. Vaping the liquid is actually #2 right now, not far behind, in terms of what consumers are doing.”

Gottlieb even takes the time to explain why these illegal drug rings are putting so much THC oil into their contraband products, something that many average vapers are still wondering about themselves.  Apparently, THC oils are typically very thin and watery compared to the vegetable glycerin of traditional nicotine vapes.  And in the eyes of a marijuana-vaping consumer, thicker juices are more appealing. 

“And it now appears that some of these people that are selling these (THC-enhanced) vapes are mixing oils into them to increase their viscosity because the thickness of the oil is seem as a measurable trait in terms of how potent it is. So that putting oils in there that shouldn’t be in there, and those oils are damaging people’s lungs.”
“The best analysis that we have so far is out of the states of Illinois and Wisconsin in which we’ve looked very closely at the cases that they’ve reported in those states and fully 80 percent of the people in those situations had reported vaping THC.  You could surmise that there’s probably under-reporting 5-10 percent of people who use THC don’t want to self-report, especially when they are in the throes of an acute illness.”

The interview progresses into the area of government regulation.  Gottlieb explains that while several states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the federal government still considers cannabis to be an illegal substance.  As a compromise, federal law enforcement agencies simply choose to look the other way, essentially choosing to ignore the federal statutes governing marijuana altogether, at least in those states which have already legalized it.

Gottlieb calls for new law allowing federal regulation of cannabis

Unfortunately, it is this contradiction in state and federal laws that prevents federal regulatory agencies like the FDA from overseeing these state-sanctioned marijuana industries.  After all, how can the FDA regulate a product that it also deems illegal?  According to Gottlieb, the legalized marijuana industry is “basically the Wild West of unregulated products, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that.’ 

Gottlieb acknowledges that a federal law legalizing marijuana would be too controversial.  As a possible work-around solution to the regulation problem, he suggests that Congress simply pass a new federal law that allows federal authorities to provide regulatory oversight in those states which legalize the cannabis industry.   If not, then the public health risks of Black Market THC vapes can never be adequately controlled. 

Related Article:  GOP commentator Noah Rothman blasts Trump’s proposed vaping ban as ‘boneheaded’ on MSNBC

from VAPES – VAPES News Blog

Milwaukee law officials uncover second illegal THC-vape operation in Wisconsin

In a second surprise arrest, a man and a woman are being accused of allegedly operating another contraband THC-vape operation in Wisconsin – Ground Zero for the outbreak of mysterious lung injuries plaguing the nation.  Last Tuesday, the Milwaukee Sheriff’s Office responded to an anonymous tip that led to the search of a small home in the West Norwich Court area of the city.  Investigators discovered nearly $1 million in cash, more than 10,000 vapor cartridges filled with illegally obtained THC oils, and at least 18 pounds of marijuana.

The cash was apparently being stored in a bedroom closet hidden inside two 20-gallon storage totes.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports one tote contained “$450,500 and the other with $452,680.“ Another $30,000 was found inside a dresser drawer.

Related Article: NPR reports on the illegal Wisconsin Black Market THC-vaping story – finally!

Also discovered in the home was a loaded Smith & Wesson with magazine attachment and extra cartridges and a semiautomatic handgun with flashlight attachments and a laser.  More items confiscated during the search include 13,509 various vape cartridges and packages of edible gummies laced with THC.  Another 1,660 cartridges labeled as “Dank’ vapes were also found in the home.

Other brand names being used by the alleged drug ring include Blue Cookies, Cookies, Connected Brass Knuckles, KRT, King Pen, P Butter, Golden Ticket, Power Wreck, State Flower, Gorilla Glue #4, and Live Well.  An “Hawaiian Punch” flavored THC-vapor device was also discovered inside the BMW of one of the alleged conspirators. On October 7, Amanda Ware, 30, and Govanny “Gio” Molina, 34, were charged with drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute contraband THC substances.  Bail was set for 25,0000 each.

First arrests occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 2019

This is not the first arrest of suspects accused of running an illegal THC operation out of Wisconsin.  Last month, The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department arrested three members of the HuffhInes family, brothers Jacob, 23, and Tyler, 20, along with their 43-year old mother Courtney for running a similar operation.

Related Article: ARRESTED: Wisconsin man accused of running illegal THC vape cartridge op

According to The Kenosha News, law officials accused the Huffhines of making and selling between 30,000 and 50,000 illegal THC cartridges per day at an average cost of $22.  At the time of the initial arrest, more than 188 pounds of marijuana were confiscated with an estimated street value of $1.5 million.

Law enforcement officials from both Wisconsin Sherriff’s Departments are said to be coordinating their investigation with federal agencies like the FDA which are currently investigating the origins of the “vaping-related” THC scandal of recent weeks.  Meanwhile, at least six states have initiated statewide flavor bans on nicotine-based vaping products rather than focusing on the real public health threat: Black Market THC-based cartridges.

Related Article: Why is mainstream media ignoring FOUR arrests in Black Market THC-vaping scandal?

(Image courtesy of Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office/Journal Sentinel Online)

from VAPES – VAPES News Blog