Mold and contaminants in marijuana are something that every consumer should be aware of. Many people do not know exactly what to look for or what the presence of mold in their marijuana really means. Cannabis can be contaminated at every stage of the growing and production process, just like every other product that goes to market, such as produce or manufactured food items. Every now and again, we hear about a salmonella outbreak or E.coli in spinach, but people often don’t realize that these same problems can happen with their cannabis flower.
Marijuana can be contaminated by improper growing and harvesting methods, like throwing cuttings on the floor, rather than in a specified container. Unsanitary practices by workers, like not washing hands and wearing gloves, can also contaminate a marijuana crop. One of the biggest issues, especially related to mold, is the improper storage of cannabis. Maintaining a proper balance of temperature and humidity can prevent mold growth, but if those are not monitored closely, then mold can grow quickly on marijuana flowers.
So, are mold and other bacteria on cannabis a problem?
UC Davis studied microbiological material found on medical marijuana from various dispensaries in Northern California and found bacterial and fungal pathogens on every single sample of cannabis tested, each which could have potentially dangerous implications for people. The study ended with a recommendation that cannabis should not be smoked, because the pathogens found on cannabis could infect lungs in immunocompromised patients. Though these findings may seem very shocking, many of the same pathogens are found in soil and on cut flowers that people interact with on a regular basis.
The study only tested raw and cured cannabis, and the researchers said that they could not make any conclusions on if these pathogens could survive during the process of cooking edibles or creating extractions, like wax, tincture, or oils. These pathogens, though harmful to people with compromised immune systems, are not of much concern to the average, healthy person. This does provide a wake up call, however, for an industry that is only partially regulated at the current time.
A bad case of bud rot.
What the recent UC Davis study highlighted was the need for lab testing and regulations on what is required of growers, producers, and sellers. The California Department of Public Health is currently working on guidelines for marijuana testing that would apply to both medical and recreational products. These guidelines would decide what is required for marijuana to be marked as safe for consumption, much like regulations we have of food and other medical products. UC Davis has shared their findings to help assist the Department of Public Health on their new regulations.
This information is sadly not new. The medical marijuana industry has long called for regulations on testing of marijuana in order to provide patients with the safest and cleanest products. Alex Traverso, spokesman for the state Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, told LA Weekly that the department is, “aware of the study, and while it’s certainly concerning, this is exactly why we need regulation. The Bureau is working with the Department of Public Health to develop strong standards for testing because patient safety is extremely important to us all.”
Lab testing is extremely important for the safety of medical marijuana users, and many companies have taken matters into their own hands. With the help of a handful of cannabis specific labs, many companies like Auntie Dolores and Kiva Confections have taken it upon themselves to lab test all of their products for potency and contaminations before they go to market. As regulations are still being formulated, you can insure that your cannabis products are free from harmful toxins by supporting companies that do the lab work on their own accord and strive to provide their patients with clean and pure products.