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Why Were Lab-Tested Mold Results Dismissed at the Michigan Cannabis Cup?

Nico Escondido

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In our Cannabis Cup competitions, High Times utilizes the highest standards of any cannabis competition in the world to determine the best cannabis products. These standards include using two separate, independent labs, as well as expert judges from the cannabis industry. High Times routinely employs over 70 judges across more than a dozen competition categories to ensure the fairness and integrity of our competition.

In an attempt to provide the utmost transparency for our competition, High Times – for the first time ever – allowed our partner labs to publish the lab results from the Michigan Cannabis Cup competition. High Times erred innot asking one of our partner labs – Iron Laboratories of Walled Lake – to remove the unused values of their analyses on entry samples. These values included mold and pest results of samples.

As a rule, High Times only uses mold results when a full mycotoxin test is performed on the entry samples. This was not the case at the 2015 MI Cup. Instead, a visual inspection was done by the lab as a PASS/ FAIL test. It is important to understand that complete myco tests are not routinely done at any cannabis competitions because the timeframe available for lab testing is prohibitive. Furthermore—from a technical standpoint—if all cannabis samples were subjected to myco testing, 99 percent of them would show some trace of mold spores, as they are nearly omnipresent on all living things. The question then is: What is the acceptable threshold for human consumption of mold spores?

Since consumed cannabis is smoked (i.e., heated at high temperatures), the threshold for the acceptability of spores on cannabis is much higher than that of food products, water supplies or medical equipment. And without a complete myco test on cannabis samples, no true PPM level could be determined by High Times from the PASS/ FAIL results provided by Iron Labs. As such, High Times relied on other check-and-balance measures to ensure the safety of the cannabis entered into the competition:

  • Judges: Not a single one of our 72 expert judges reported seeing or smelling mold on any entry.
  • Visual Inspection by our Competition Committee: Of the entries reported to have mold, none were deemed to meet a minimum threshold of clear and present danger to our judges.
  • Second Partner Lab: Our second partner lab, PSI Labs of Ann Arbor, re-tested several entry samples – including some of the winners – and was unable to identify any entries that met a minimum threshold of mold to warrant a disqualification.

While the results from Iron Labs show an abnormally high incidence of mold on samples (over 30 percent of flowers were found to contain some form of mold), no mycotoxin tests were conducted, or PPM levels established. Iron Labs was simply doing its job, and due diligence in reporting what it considered to be mold, but that in no way means the spores identified were of any quantifiable or harmful level. This is why the entries were allowed to compete and ultimately why some of those very same entries took home awards.

High Times apologizes for any inconvenience, misunderstanding or harm done resulting from these lab results being published. High Times will take care in the future to ensure results are explained and understood by all. We thank everyone for their support of High Times Cannabis Cups over the past 28 years, and we look forward to continued support and the ever-brighter future of cannabis around the world.

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