Cannabis industry leaders have urged Congress to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act in order to protect Americans from illicit vaping products.

The National Cannabis Industry Association, made up of almost 800 business leaders, said recent vaping illnesses are “an unmistakable reminder of the importance of effective regulation”. They wrote to Congress to argue that the vaping illness outbreak is linked to failed prohibition policies that support an unregulated, illicit market.

The illnesses have been linked to 12 deaths and 805 cases of lung injury in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illicit cannabis has been blamed for the outbreak, although one case was linked to legal products in Oregon.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public emergency and announced a four-month sales ban on all vaping products, and six vape shop owners are suing over it.

The NCIA said the outbreak highlights the need for robust federal regulations that are not possible due to marijuana’s status as a federally controlled substance. It urged Congress to deschedule it, while encouraging producers to recall any vape products containing Vitamin E acetate and to stop using thickening agents until more data is available on what is causing the illnesses.

NCIA’s Policy Council has produced a paper called Adapting a Regulatory Framework for the Emerging Cannabis Industry. It argues for the need to have a clear regulatory approach as the U.S. moves towards making cannabis legal at a federal level.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, while more than half of all states have a medical marijuana program.

“As a country, we are starting to move past whether we should end cannabis prohibition, and need to put serious consideration into how we do that and what a post-legalization world looks like in terms of federal regulatory policy,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith.

It suggested that the Food and Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau already have the federal regulatory expertise to oversee a federally regulated cannabis industry, while avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy, costs, and delays for cannabis companies or the government.

This week New Frontier Data produced a report claiming that the federal government could bring close to $130 billion in tax revenue by 2025 if it regulates recreational cannabis. It said more than 1 million jobs would also be created nationwide.

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