Nevada lawmakers on Friday approved funding for a statewide summit to set a public health strategy around the increasing use of marijuana and vaping products in the state.
The Nevada Legislatuare’s Interim Finance Committee approved two parts of a three-pronged funding request “to address the alarming increase in cannabis use as well as the use of vaping products,” according to documents supporting the request from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Nevada in 2017.
“Recently, the increase in lung injury associated with vaping has been identified in Nevada and linked to both cannabis and nicotine vaping products,” the documents state.
The summit, slated for the fall of 2020, will serve as a “critical starting point” for identifying ways to deter e-cigarette use by youths as well as “youth marijuana consumption particularly through cannabis vaping,” while also considering “recreational issues and changes in social norms.”
The committee approved $125,000 in funding for the summit and another $400,000 “to investigate the impacts of cannabis and the cases of illness associated with vaping and e-cigarette use.” It delayed consideration of a request to fund a $1 million public awareness campaign targeting youth, pregnant women and visitors to Nevada, among other groups.
The funding comes from a state settlement with Johnson &Johnson over alleged deceptive trade practices in marketing metal-on-metal hip implant devices, according to the Nevada attorney general’s office.
The funding requests come at a time when state and local health agencies, led by the federal Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, are investigating cases of severe lung injury associated with the use of vaping products. As of Dec. 10, there had been 2,409 such cases across the country, including 52 deaths.
Most of the patients said they had vaped products containing THC, the ingredient that creates the high in marijuana. Investigators are now focusing on THC cartridges purchased on the black market.
Investigators also have zeroed in on vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to some THC vaping liquids.
This week the Southern Nevada Health District reported a fifth case of serious lung illness in a Clark County resident.
In 2018, one in five high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month, according to the federal government.
Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services in August surveyed adults on vaping. Six percent of all surveyed adults said they were currently vaping, but the percentage jumped to 16.5 percent among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Another statistic from the Nevada agency shows that the rate of pregnant women in Nevada using marijuana has more than tripled since 2010. Meanwhile, a recent study by UNLV researchers links use of marijuana by pregnant women to increased health risks for their babies.