Officially banned by the MED along with the more-notorious vitamin E acetate and polyethylene glycol (PEG) at the start of 2020, medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) is a form of concentrated coconut oil and was a popular natural additive for nicotine and cannabis vaping oils. But the binding and thinning agent can produce potentially toxic substances like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde when heated, leading to MCT becoming an MED-banned additive in January.
Although marijuana vaping products have been recalled for banned pesticide or solvent residue before in Colorado, this is the first health advisory for vaping product additives. MED communications director Shannon Gray notes that the advisory is only for MCT oil, not PEG or vitamin E.
According to product manufacturers, whether or not you have vape liquid with MCT oil depends on the age of your vape pen or cartridge.
The MED notified Colorado marijuana companies about its decision to ban the three additives in November 2019 and sent out reminders to licensed business owners as the January deadline approached. But in a health notice released Wednesday, March 4, the MED warns that there could still be products on the market from several brands that were using MCT oil before the ban was in place.
The MED lists the following brands as possible sources of MCT oil:
Recent MED reviews of products from the listed companies suggest that "new formulations of these vaporizer delivery devices do not contain MCT Oil," the MED notes, adding that they did have it at one point, and these companies might not be the only ones. (Keef Pods was erroneously included by the MED in an earlier version of the notice, and has since been removed from suspicion.)
"To emphasize, [this announcement] does not suggest that vaporizer delivery devices noted here contain MCT Oil. In fact MED’s review of these products suggests that new formulations of these vaporizer delivery devices do not contain MCT Oil," the announcement reads. "MED can not represent, however, that this list is necessarily inclusive of every vaporizer delivery device that may have included MCT Oil and was sold post-January 1."
Representatives from the Clear, the Lab, Fuehl, Cannxtracts, Nectarbee and Tumbleweed all say that their respective companies halted use of MCT oil in vape products by or before December of last year, and that any products still containing MCT oil must have been on the shelf before 2020 began. (Pure Vibe did not respond to requests for comment.)
"Everyone is to be held responsible for it, both producers and retailers," says Dan Grossman, head of extraction for Tumbleweed. "We used it to make a solution which was, at the time, considered safe by everyone, including the governing departments. But that should've been taken off the shelf months ago."
The Lab sent a notice to partnering retailers after learning of the MED advisory, according to sales manager Kristi Ryder, telling dispensaries to remove any PAX Pods from the Lab that were made before the MED's November announcement.
The Clear sent a memo to retailers in November, says vice president of sales and business development Evan Owen. "We were in full compliance. It really comes to stores not doing inventory," he explains. "We stopped using it in September 2019."
Before then, some companies used MCT oil as a mixing agent for CBD isolate and THC oil. Now, cannabis vaping companies have switched to filling their cartridges with purer cannabis concentrate and cannabinoid isolates produced at different temperatures that allow for thinner, more combustable vaping liquids, according to Owen and Grossman.
The MED didn't flag the products based on laboratory testing. Instead, it says, it relied on reviews of procedural documents, dispensary outreach and production-site investigations.