Vitamin E Acetate In Cannabis Products Possibly Causing Vape-Related Illnesses

New York officials may have found an answer for the mysterious rash of illnesses linked to vaping that has already claimed three lives in the United States. On Thursday, the state’s Department of Health announced that it had uncovered lab results that identified “very high levels” of vitamin E acetate in “nearly all” the cannabis products they had examined in relationship to the vaping illness. Authorities say vitamin E is now “a key focus” of the investigation going forward.

“It is really starting to look like this is a cannabis vaping issue and that it may not have anything to do with e-cigarettes,” Michael Siegel of Boston University, who is a tobacco expert and public health professor, told USA Today.

Across the county, over 215 vape users have been hospitalized for breathing problems, and there have been three reported deaths to date, one in Oregon, one in Illinois, and one in Indiana. The condition has often been misdiagnosed as pneumonia, and patients have complained of cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, fever and gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, among other symptoms. In New York, those who had been hit with the lung condition were mainly between the ages of 17 and 30.

New York Department of Health officials said that vitamin E acetate had been identified in each sample of cannabis products submitted by affected individuals. The Food and Drug Administration had also identified vitamin E oil in many samples submitted by patients.

“No one substance, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all of the samples tested,” said FDA spokesperson Michael Felberbaum to CBS News. “Importantly, identifying any compounds that are present in the samples will be one piece of the puzzle but will not necessarily answer questions about causality,” Felberbaum said. “The results from the FDA’s laboratory analysis will be shared with the respective states to aid in their investigations and will help further inform the federal response.”

Indiana has seen 30 incidents of the illness, which, similar to New York, has affected mostly people between the ages of 16 and 29. A study conducted within the state between 2012 and 2018 found that vaping was up 387 percent in high school students.

On Friday, Indiana’s Health Commissioner Kris Box told vapers to proceed with caution when using cannabis products.

“The tragic loss of a Hoosier and rising number of vaping-related injuries are warnings that we cannot ignore,” she said. “While it is unclear what substances are causing injury, when you use these products with other chemicals, you may not know everything that you’re inhaling and the harm it can cause.”

Concern over vaping, which appears to be replacing smoking for many US residents and has seen soaring rates among teenagers, has led some jurisdictions to ban e-cigarettes. Michigan became the first state to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigs. In June, San Francisco — home to the corporate headquarters of Juul, the leading e-cig producer — announced a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes. Juul has spent $4.3 million so far on a ballot measure to overturn the ban, and is on track to break records when it comes to political spending on such a measure in the city.

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From Psilocybin-Loving Psychologist To Modern Mystic: A Profile of Ram Dass

One of the country’s foremost self-help masters, Ram Dass is now 88 years old and in a wheelchair, still imparting wisdom while continuing to manage the dramatic after-effects of a massive stroke. Before Ram Dass concludes his journey as a human being on this earth, one of his devoted followers, Jamie Catto, wanted to immortalize him in a film. Becoming Nobody is Catto’s tribute to Ram Dass, capturing the essence of his spiritual teachings while offering a glimpse into his past.

Richard Alpert was born in 1931 to a Jewish family in Massachusetts. While religion wasn’t very compelling to him as a youth, he did exhibit an early interest in human nature, which eventually led to him earning a PhD in psychology from Stanford University. After Timothy Leary introduced him to psychedelics, Alpert went to India in 1967, where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji. That’s when he became Ram Dass (“servant of God”), and a few years later in 1971, his bestseller Be Here Now was published, catapulting him onto a full-fledged career as 20th century American guru.

The film’s director, Catto first learned about Ram Dass in 1988, then met him on a retreat in the UK a few years later. What followed were interviews that paved the way for a face-to-face discussion in Becoming Nobody, which took place in 2015 in Ram Dass’ home in Maui. The one-on-one interview anchors the biographical documentary, which is interspersed with archive footage, including words of wisdom by Ram Dass himself, carefully culled from an array of scratchy black and white films and glitchy videos.

Becoming Nobody doesn’t go into the life story of Ram Dass much — it’s more like a highlight reel of all the teachings he espoused throughout the decades. Still, Ram Dass talks about his long road as a seeker, discussing the implications of the time when Timothy Leary gave him psilocybin in the 1960s. “It changed my life in the sense that it undercut the models I had of who I thought I was,” says Ram Dass in the film. The scary yet exhilarating experience led him to a deeper understanding of his true being — not of who he was, but that he simply was, period. Ram Dass attributes this, in large part, to meeting his guru. “See, a guru is your doorway to God. Your doorway to the beyond,” he says in the film. “A guru is a spiritual vehicle. An entrance-way. He’s a pure mirror. He isn’t anybody at all.”

From Psilocybin-Loving Psychologist To Modern Mystic: A Profile Of Ram Dass
Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji/ Courtesy Love Serve Remember Films and Google Empathy Lab

After Ram Dass started to grow out his beard and lecture cross-legged, he began to discover that life’s lessons are embedded in the multifarious paradoxes that present themselves along the journey, specifically the idea that sometimes, true transformation comes from not getting what you want. Similarly, for Ram Dass, life’s low points can be more interesting than its high ones, “because they’re showing you where you aren’t.” He believes that too many of us operate under a model of deprivation, and that the idea of not having enough needs to be surrendered if we are to find true enlightenment. He’s big on suffering as a valuable experience, and believes that humor and love are key. He also believes that the taboo of death is wrong.

“The appreciation of death and the spiritual journey after death is the prerequisite for living life joyfully now,” says Ram Dass in Becoming Nobody. “Death does not have to be treated as an enemy for you to delight in life. Keeping death present in your consciousness, as one of the greatest mysteries and as the moment of incredible transformation, imbues this moment with added richness and energy which otherwise is used up in denial. I encourage you to make peace with death, to see it as the culminating adventure of this adventure called life. It is not an error. It is not a failure. It is taking off a tight shoe, which you have worn well. But those that find the way in the morning can gladly die in the evening, it is said in the mystical literature.”

In a filmmaker’s statement, Catto says, “The intimacy and trust that Ram Dass cultivates through his unabashed realness is a notable contrast to a commodified Western spiritual culture so often laden with self-proclaimed gurus. Above all, I wanted to capture the profound love that radiates from this man’s heart; his humanity and authenticity will allow future generations to be transformed by his wonderfully irreverent yet deeply holy practice of humor and heart.”

In theaters today, Becoming Nobody is presented by Love Serve Remember Films with Google Empathy Lab.

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