We often hear of cannabis recalls due to contamination. So we can surmise that marijuana contamination is relatively common. But what exactly does contaminated cannabis mean and how do we detect it?
Why do contaminated products reach the market in the first place?
As more and more entrepreneurs and businesses jump in on the cannabis bandwagon, wanting to cash in on the latest medical trend, the more difficult it has gotten for authorities to oversee the quality of all products that make it to store shelves.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if the only players in the business end of the bargain are the large reputable cannabis producers. These companies guarantee products that have gone through laboratory testing and have certificates to show for it. In fact, this is one of the reasons why legitimate cannabis products are relatively pricey.
However, as the cannabis industry thrives, so does the black market. And we know that illegal businesses don’t care much about quality control; they are more about quantity. So we cannot expect their products to have undergone standard lab testing.
With the absence of quality control, contaminated cannabis products end up in the market, to be purchased and consumed by the public.
What are the common causes of contamination?
Contaminants are common in cannabis plants because of the processes involved in creating various cannabis products, from growing and harvesting the plants, to extracting, to packing.
There are different kinds of cannabis contaminants. These are:
Fungi and Molds
One of the most common causes of contamination in cannabis plants is fungal growth, with grey mold and mildew being the usual suspects. One of the clear signs of fungal infection in a cannabis plant is a fuzzy skin texture or an unnatural looking white powder.
This is why growers who grow cannabis indoors are advised to have thermometers in order to make sure that the ideal humidity and temperature are maintained. Growers should also inspect their crop regularly and hunt for signs of fungal contamination and to remove fungal growth immediately upon discovery.
Also common in cannabis are microbial contaminants. This is because of the strong adaptation build of microbes.
A recent study has found that gram-negative bacilli are found in a number of Northern California cannabis dispensaries. And to make things worse, these bacteria attack cannabis strains that are used for medical purposes.
The only way to ensure that cannabis is free from harmful microbes is to submit it to microbial testing.
Like many other crops, cannabis is very susceptible to pest and insect infestation. Once pests are present to feed on the plant, the yield is compromised.
Unfortunately, the easiest way to combat or prevent infestation is by spraying pesticides. Doing so will drive away pests and insects and keep them from damaging the plants. This process, however, may have serious negative effects on consumers.
Some pesticides remain in the cannabis plants even after the plants have been harvested and cured. Inhaling particles of pesticide chemicals, such as imidacloprid, etoxazole, and spiromesifen, is harmful to one’s health.
Cannabis is used to create extracts, which are used mainly for therapeutic benefits. However, despite its use in the medical world, the cannabis extraction process can leave solvent residue behind, especially if it is not done correctly. This is why utmost care should be observed when creating solvent-based extracts.
Aside from all these, there are also miscellaneous contaminants.
As of now, most of the states in the U.S. and most of the countries that have legalized medical cannabis have not yet made cannabis contamination testing a mandatory step before products are sold in dispensaries. This means that the only way for you to make sure that the products are 100% safe and contaminant-free is to check the place where the cannabis was grown and processed. This or you get the product tested at a laboratory facility.
But we know this is easier said than done.
That is why it is important that you know how to identify signs of possible contamination. What are these signs?
Remember to always feel the texture of the bud before you smoke it. If the weed is dry, there is very little chance of it having mold. But if it feels damp and spongy, you may want to check the product very closely.
You should also look out for cannabis with a powdery texture. Some sellers add crushed pills to the pot in order to enhance its aesthetic appeal.
Before lighting your weed, smell it first. While every cannabis strain smells distinct, the good products all share a musky sweet scent. If it smells too sweet or if it has a gone-off scent, then there might be something wrong with your product. Moreover, weed that smells like freshly cut grass could mean that it has not been properly dried or cured. And when it hasn’t been, it has the tendency to get moldy when it is stored.
Fuzzy greenish or grayish color, or speckled white discoloration on your weed is another telltale sign that what you have is a bad product. These colors are usually the effects mold and mildew contaminations.
Aside from these physical signs of contamination, you should also watch out for its effects on your body.
Let’s just say that after looking at, feeling, and smelling your weed, you have not spotted anything wrong with it and so you lit it up. But instead of feeling good about it, you feel chest pains. Remember, good weed should not cause chest pain. So if you feel your chest tightening, you might have inhaled contaminated weed. Go see your doctor immediately if this happens as there could be a more serious issue.
You should also watch out for allergies. If you have smoked weed before and have had no adverse allergic reaction, then all of a sudden you do, this could mean that you smoked contaminated weed.