Pierce County man files vaping lawsuit

When Charles Wilcoxen switched to a vaping pen to use marijuana, he thought it would be safer than smoking.

“I believed 100 percent that it was a safer alternative,” Wilcoxen said.

That was until one night earlier this month when he woke up having severe breathing problems. He says tests determined he had lipoid pneumonia

“Which was in fact due to the vaping cartridges that were being used that legally bought here in the state of Washington,” said Wilcoxen.

Now Wilcoxen is suing six Washington based companies that distribute vaping products.

Wilcoxen said he chose to vape because marijuana helps him manage pain from a 2012 back injury he suffered as a contractor working in Iraq. Before that he was a special forces soldier in the U.S. Army. Now a Puyallup tribal police officer, he wanted to avoid opioids believing he was taking less risk by vaping on his off duty days.

Like a lot of people, Wilcoxen had seen ads claiming vaping was a safer way to use both marijuana and tobacco. That was before more than 500 people reported respiratory illnesses doctors have blamed on the electronic vape pens and the products people use them to ingest.

Six cases have been confirmed in Washington state. Nationally at least nine have died.

And because marijuana is still illegal under federal law here is no oversight of the ingredients in the vape cartridges and whether or not they pose a health risk.

“The FDA should ban these products until they are proven safe and once they are safe they should be kept safe through regulation,” said Mark Lindquist, Wilcoxen’s attorney with the Herrmann Law Group.

The companies listed in the suit are Canna Brands Solutions, Conscious Cannabis, CannaNW, LeafWerx, and Jane’s Garden. KIRO 7 was able to get through to Canna Brands and LeafWerx. The companies said they had not seen the lawsuit and did not comment.

More news from KIRO 7