The headline alone can send shivers down our spine. It gives us a very big reason why we should avoid buying cannabis from the streets. At all costs.
Scientists have issued a public health warning over the dangerously high levels of fecal matter that they have discovered in cannabis sold in the streets of Madrid, Spain.
According to a study published in Forensic Science International, nearly 75 percent of the weed that you can buy on the streets of Madrid has been found to be contaminated with E. coli and is therefore “unsuitable for consumption.”
Moreover, they found that one in 10 samples of this street cannabis had harmful levels of the fungus Aspergillus. This dangerous mold species type of fungus can cause serious health problems, including allergic responses and localized infections.
These dangerous levels of contamination are considered to be far worse than the kind of contamination in cannabis that are carried inside drug mules who swallow the drugs in plastic pellets.
How the study was conducted
The researchers, led by Manuel Pérez-Moreno, a pharmacist at a university in Madrid, scoured different areas in the city for drug dealers and buying cannabis from them. They collected a total of 90 samples in a year and tested them for various kinds of contamination.
How the fecal matter got into the cannabis
The contamination is partly due to the local modus operandi of the hash smugglers. The importation, sale, and purchase of cannabis is prohibited in Spain, so the trade and use of the drug are done via illegal means.
Pérez-Moreno said that drug traffickers from Morocco wrap the cannabis, or the hashish, in transparent film or plastic pellets and ingest them. “Acorns” is the term used for the small plastic pellets that the drug mules swallow.
And once they arrive in Spain, the traffickers take laxatives in order to expel the acorns, which are then passed on to the local dealers and then sold in the black market. This is why the highest levels of E. coli were found in cannabis acorns.
Test results showed that 40 percent of all the samples have the smell of feces.
Meanwhile, 93 percent of the acorn samples and 29 percent of other ingot samples contained dangerous levels of E. coli. Ten percent of the samples also contained Aspergillus.
All in all, 83 percent of all samples were deemed not suitable for consumption due to microbiological criteria.
Public health problem
Pérez-Moreno said that the amount of fecal matter they have detected in the samples is 500 times higher than the maximum limit that has been set for fruit and tea by the United States and the European legislation.
Inmaculada Santos-Álvarez, a biologist and co-author of the study, said that the quantities of bacteria they found were appalling. She explained that the problem is not just with inhalation, as hashish is constantly manipulated by the users using their hands.
Pérez-Moreno also warned that burning street cannabis is not the solution and will not protect people from infection. He said that there are no filters on joints and people are not just breathing in smoke but also the particles.