After four days of vaping a mango-flavored CBD product from a South Florida company, Erin Gilbert developed shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, she says, and was rushed to a hospital in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Gilbert was initially diagnosed with pneumonia, but her condition quickly worsened. Doctors placed her on a ventilator before airlifting her to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where both of her legs had to be amputated.
Jackson doctors, after ruling out bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, attributed her deteriorating condition to vaping, according to a lawsuit Gilbert and her husband filed last week in Broward County Circuit Court. They blame Just CBD, a Hollywood company that sells a range of cannabis products, from patchouli hemp soap to CBD gummies. (The lawsuit was first reported by Courthouse News Service.)
Just CBD, which bills itself as “the future of CBD,” also sells CBD vape juice in eight flavors. Gilbert vaped the company’s mango flavor August 15 after purchasing it from a shop in St. Croix, according to the lawsuit.
Never having used CBD before, Gilbert vaped from the cartridge daily before she was rushed to Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in St. Croix August 19, she says. She arrived in Miami August 22 “in a paralyzed state with acute respiratory distress and multiorgan failure, including acute kidney injury, acute liver injury, and lactic acidosis,” the lawsuit states.
She was placed on life support and the following day underwent surgery to treat blood clotting in her legs, but doctors were unable to save them. She was eventually weaned off life support but now breathes through a tracheal tube. She remains in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Gilbert is one of almost 2,000 people who have fallen ill after inhaling vape products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which updates its site every Thursday. Thirty-seven people have died in the outbreak, which has reached all states except Alaska.
Most of the cases have been attributed to black-market THC vapes, which are mostly mixed with products shipped from China with no regulation or oversight. No specific ingredient has been listed as the cause of the vaping illness, although there has been a link to the vitamin E oil used by some companies in their products. Many of the black-market brands also order packaging from China that allows them to duplicate existing legal brands or create their own brands with slick packaging.
Just CBD is part of the Coral Springs-based conglomerate SSGI Financial Services, Inc. Reached by phone, a spokesperson for the company told New Times it would provide a statement about Gilbert’s lawsuit but did not follow up. However, the company sent a statement to Courthouse News saying Just CBD did not distribute its products to retail stores in the U.S. Virgin Islands, meaning the product Gilbert vaped might have been counterfeit.
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Gilbert’s medical expenses has collected $7,000 so far.
Carlos Miller/Miami New Times