by Rick Thompson/September 19, 2019
A Michigan company is at the center of the national scandal involving vapor pens and illnesses caused by them.
Vapor pens operate by using a heating element to vaporize liquid carrying nicotine or other substances, which is then inhaled by the user. Each cartridge contains a small amount of active substance; most of what is vaporized is a carrier liquid, something that bulks up the quantity of the delivery while adding flavors or other characteristics.
Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control have launched an investigation into the sudden spate of vapor pen-inspired illnesses. The concern is that vitamin E oil used in the carrier is harming humans who vape it. On September 10 Rolling Stone Magazine published an article detailing subpoenas issued by the State of New York to three companies who ship that carrier liquid, or diluent, to vapor pen cartridge manufacturers, including one located in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
FLPX LLC, aka Floraplex, is listed in the article as a manufacturer or distributor of a diluent product called ‘Uber Thick’. The expensive liquid additive carried a price tag of $3,499 per gallon. New York State issued the subpoenas to force manufacturers to “assist with the FDA investigation” into vape pen illnesses.
“Thickening agents are meant to dilute and thicken vape oil mixtures, and are used almost exclusively in THC vape products,” per the Rolling Stone article by EJ Dickson.
The Floraplex website, buyterpenesonline.com, claims that the company offers “higher quality terps for almost half the price of others. All of our products are California compliant.”
The other two companies receiving subpoenas are located in California and Massachusetts. “All three of these companies have pulled its products from the market,” and, “All three of these products also contain “nearly pure vitamin E acetate oil,” according to officials from the New York State Department of Health,” per Rolling Stone.
Dickson writes that “vitamin E is harmless when applied topically or taken orally. When inhaled, however, it can lead to lipoid pneumonitis, a condition that is the result of fat particles being ingested in the lungs…”
FLPX LLC filed their Articles of Incorporation on June 15, 2018 in a document listing Alex S Riffle as Resident Agent. Jennene Otto is listed as the person filing the document.
Otto lists on her LinkedIn profile that her job is Director of Human Resources at Tree City Provisioning center licensed by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. They are listed as GR Vending MI and have offices at 2730 Jackson Ave in Ann Arbor.
Riffle was listed in an article by the Detroit Free Press as having donated $10,000 to the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in 2017; that article lists him as being a part of the Tree City Health Collective. On a document filed in December of 2018 Riffle is listed as the owner of FLPX.
On July 18 the company filed to use the assumed name Floraplex Terpenes and on April 16 they filed to officially change their address from Liberty Road to 324 Airport Industrial Drive in Ypsilanti; both 2019 documents were filed by Otto.
At this time there is no direct linkage from diluent to illness and the article suggests the FDA and State of New York are interested in learning the diluent’s content and customer list.