Minnesota man says he's sick from vaping | KSTP.com

Minnesota man says he's sick from vaping

Updated: October 02, 2019 10:18 PM

The Minnesota Health Department will not confirm, due to federal privacy laws, whether it is investigating illnesses of a St. Francis man for possible links to Minnesota's medical cannabis program.

But, Robert Youcha told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS "five out of 10 doctors told me they think my pulmonary illnesses are connected to vaping in the medical cannabis program, and they told me to stop vaping immediately."

Youcha said he started using medical cannabis in January 2017 because "it was helping me with my intractable pain" and his method of delivering the prescribed cannabis medicine was a vaping pen.

"It worked great and is a great program, but there were problems for me six months after I started vaping," said Youcha. "I suddenly could not breathe and ended up in the hospital for awhile and doctors finally diagnosed it as Lipoid Pneumonia, but they were not certain how I got it."

Youcha told KSTP he quit vaping and immediately felt better, and was released from Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He decided to start vaping again in January 2018 because he thought "if I just do smaller doses of it this time, I can avoid the previous problems."

But, Youcha said six months after starting up again, in the summer of 2018, he was back in the hospital with similar symptoms as the first time and that is when a team of doctors were split on what was causing his Lipoid Pneumonia.

"Five of the 10 doctors just shrugged and said they could not be certain what caused my problem," said Youcha. "But, the other five physicians all said they thought it was definitely tied to the cannabis I was vaping in the state's medical cannabis program."

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Youcha said the Minnesota Department of Health has interviewed him extensively and did collect all of his medical records, and he said a health department employee told him they were taking his case "very seriously" and would be back in touch with him in the near future.

Youcha said he supports the medical cannabis program and only wants the best information to come out of his situation and the situation of other people who might be getting sick after they vape — even if it turns out to be connected to the medical cannabis program.

"I think this is another strong indicator that they should just use the flower of the cannabis and not this other stuff that's kind of manufactured," said Youcha. "It definitely works, for me, and it is clearly working for a lot of other people but I think they need to find out if vaping, right now, in the medical cannabis program is a problem or not."

KSTP asked the Minnesota Department of Health how many of the current 32 vaping cases "under review" are connected to the medical cannabis program, but the department has not yet provided an answer to that question.

A department spokesperson said the department cannot guarantee the safety of vaping, in any circumstance, and advised people who choose to vape in the medical cannabis program to consult with their physician on what is best for them.

So far, after four years, there have been no confirmed illnesses from vaping in the Minnesota medical cannabis program.

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Jay Kolls

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