The COVID-19 pandemic affected all types of businesses, such as those found in the cannabis industry. Though it was hit hard from the virus, the cannabis industry suffered another blow in the form of the December 2020 COVID-19 stimulus package, which included a provision classifying all vape products as cigarettes, subjecting them to the same regulations as cigarettes. Here, U.S. Navy veteran Dana E. Shoched, president and chief executive officer of O2VAPE, discusses the impacts this legislation may have on the cannabis vaping industry.
Can you tell us about O2VAPE?
Dana E. Shoched: O2VAPE is a vape equipment manufacturer that primarily supplies the legal cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) markets in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. We provide high-quality, portable cannabis vaping products for recreational and medicinal consumers. We provide a lifetime guarantee on all of our vape batteries and are best known for our patented Flip Ultra and Flip Platinum products, as well as our award winning heavy metal tested cartridges and our new all glass cartridges containing no metals. We have always been focused on safety, quality, and innovation for the cannabis market. O2VAPE has never developed or sold nicotine or tobacco products.
As a veteran-owned company, do you do any educational outreach for veterans researching medical cannabis as a treatment option?
Shoched: As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, it has always been important to me to keep the veteran community top of mind since so many veterans rely upon cannabis medicine. I founded O2VAPE out of my garage in 2013 and we now serve veterans across the country. Currently, we have been conducting outreach in order to educate veterans and all consumers about the threat posed by the ban on shipping vaping equipment. The thing I’m most concerned about is how this law will choke the supply chain for the equipment that many of my fellow veterans and other medicinal cannabis patients around the country use to take their medication. We have worked hard to get to where we are by always putting the safety of our customers first.
In the December COVID-19 stimulus bill, there was a provision classifying all vape products as cigarettes, subjecting them to the same regulations as cigarettes. What kind of impact do you believe this will have on the cannabis vaping industry?
Shoched: We’re still analyzing all of the short-term and long-term ramifications, but it will be millions of dollars in extra costs and lost revenue. In legal cannabis markets across the country, the vaping component of our industry drives billions of dollars in revenue and creates thousands of jobs. By sliding this into the back of the stimulus package the law change misrepresents our vape customers as nicotine addicts and our technology as tobacco driven; it effectively aims to destroy our ability to serve consumers with the equipment we develop. The “stimulus” in this act actually puts people’s livelihoods at risk and businesses like mine in an even greater struggle than the pandemic created. Additionally, it will force consumers into a dangerous black market that should not exist.
The cannabis industry is federally unregulated; do you see cannabis vaping products going down a path toward Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval? If so, what do you expect that will do the industry (will people be prepared for that level of testing and quality control)? Has your company taken any measures to prepare for that?
Shoched: We manage regulations from multiple entities, but just not directly from the federal government at this time. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), which includes e-cigarettes, and the law snuck into the December stimulus package attempts to link these nicotine devices with those manufactured exclusively for use with cannabis. We think this is a gross overreach, particularly because O2VAPE and most responsible cannabis vape manufacturers have always followed strict quality and testing standards. We thoroughly test all of our products for durability and safety. We also age gate our purchases so there are safeguards to ensure that underage consumers are not purchasing our products. Safety has always been our highest priority and compliance with all the regulations around the country within the markets where we have customers is paramount.
Opioids have become a worldwide issue because of their addictive properties. As a U.S. Navy veteran, do you use medical cannabis as a treatment option? Or do you see medical cannabis as an alternative to using prescribed medication?
Shoched: I absolutely support the use of cannabis as a treatment option for veterans and anyone else who would like to replace or supplement their more traditional drug treatment regimen. Thousands of U.S. veterans are still forced to navigate uncharted waters when wanting to supplement or replace their prescription treatment regimen with cannabis. As a result, veterans are forced to fend for themselves to find information on the benefits and uses of medical cannabis.
Do you have any further you would like to add?
Shoched: More than anything, I am concerned that the impact of the legislation in the December stimulus bill will reduce access to critical cannabis vaping supplies for those who depend upon them for medicine and will drive consumers to the black market. We know now that the black market was responsible for the terrible vaping-related illnesses of 2019, and to purposely push people in that direction is the height of irresponsibility. Whether through our O2VAPE brand or our sister company O2Holistic, we are all about providing people safe and trustworthy products. Consumers—and especially veterans—deserve simple and safe access without being driven to black market providers..