Op-Ed: Will marijuana vaping escape San Fran's e-cig ban?

Posted Mar 22, 2014 by Nicole Weddington
San Francisco is not a tobacco-friendly town. The city has strict regulations that prohibit smoking outside bars and at ATM machines, but a loophole in the law currently provides favorable treatment for those who use marijuana pens.
A cigarette burning
A cigarette burning
The rights of cannabis users is being heavily guarded by San Francisco lawmakers, even to the extent that regulations that prohibit the use of e-cigarettes do not apply to the use of vapor pens.
The two devices are virtually identical. Each is a portable vaporizer with provides a smokeless conveyance system for the active ingredients in tobacco or cannabis.
But marijuana advocates report that rules regarding e-cigs proposed by Supervisor Eric Mars would most definitely be applied to cannabis vape pens. The questions arising from these proposed regulations beg the obvious questions of why it is necessary to restrict or regulate anything that reduces harm to individuals and bystanders in the first place.
The endless trail of butts littering the pavement notwithstanding, San Francisco has some very strict rules regarding where and when people are allowed to smoke. They go so far as the levy a 5¢ per-pack fee imposed to offset the expense of picking all those butts up off the ground.
In San Francisco, you cannot smoke at a bus stop, anywhere near an ATM, within a certain zone in front of a bar or in public parks. Most of these laws make no distinction between tobacco and anything else.
But according to one of Mars' aides, the e-cigarette legislation is not going to apply to “any laws or regulations regarding medical cannabis.”
This still comes across as a bit unclear, since an e-cigarette is described as, “any device with a heating element, a battery, or an electronic circuit that provides nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the user in a manner that simulates tobacco.”
The “other vaporized liquids” part is what has the average toker feeling a little paranoid. The law could be interpreted to include devices like vape pens which you can find by searching through a plethora of vaporizer reviews.
Castro-based cannabis activist David Goldman calls the verbiage of the proposed policy, “a solution in search of a problem. How are police going to know the difference? They're not -- they're just going to give you the ticket and have you figure it later out in court," he said.
Harm reduction is another concept that is leaving vapers of all description feeling a bit uneasy. Those using e-cigarettes or other types of vaporizers are seemingly doing so as opposed to smoking a traditional cigarette. The objective there is to avoid ingesting most of the known toxins in cigarette smoke.
The question on the minds of most users is: why is the City trying to make it harder to do something that is less harmful in the long term? The answer lies in certain studies that show that some toxins do escape when the liquid inside the device is vaporized.
The real issue is not so much whether or not marijuana should factor in to the ban, but rather why the vaping ban is even necessary in the first place. These proposed city polices have the potential to light up a political powder keg with opposition aimed at City Hall from two angles: those trying to quit smoking and those trying to legally toke up in peace.