Most cannabis smokers rightfully assume the flower they buy from dispensaries is both safe and free from harmful pathogens. While that can be true in many cases, it’s not always the case. New studies and regulated ‘secret shopper’ incidents are proving the issue may be more widespread than originally expected. In fact, previously ‘passed’ batches of available-to-consumer flower have turned out to have harmful bacteria levels after sitting on the store shelf.
So, before you pass the joint, there are some important things you should know about the risks from contaminated marijuana and the methods for proper decontamination.
Health Risks from Moldy or Contaminated Cannabis
Marijuana is susceptible to contaminants very similar to those that affect consumer food products. Among the worst offenders you might find in your cannabis are mold, powdery mildew, a fungus called aspergillus, bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria (known as BTGN), Salmonella, yeast, and many other dangerous microbes. Each of these pose serious threats to your health. Exposures to mold and mildew alone can lead to excessive coughing, chest pain, allergic reactions and fatigue. But consuming flower accompanied by microbes can lead to even worse outcomes, like illness, bacterial infections, worsening symptoms of asthma, aggravation to autoimmune conditions, and even pneumonia, which can become very serious and at times even life-threatening. If you are smoking to manage an underlying health condition, those risks become even more severe.
If You Care About Your Health & Product, You Should Care About How It Is Decontaminated
As legalization and decriminalization are becoming more widespread in the United States, nearly all commercial growers are using decontamination techniques to curb this issue for consumers while meeting increased product demand. As regulations become more wide-spread, so will testing. Product labels often make mold-free guarantees to put consumers at ease. But again, very much like with produce, some of these antimicrobial treatments may themselves be harmful to the health of consumers, and the integrity of the product itself.
One popular remediation choice is using gas decontamination agents, such as Ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and other reactive oxygen species. These gases are toxic and are often used to quickly sterilize entire grow rooms full of crops by breaking down the cell walls of contaminants. However, gaseous treatments are ineffective at impacting the internal microbes not found on the immediate surface of the flower. This means that these unaffected microbes can continue to grow even after being treated. Furthermore, because of the potency of the chemicals, the gas decontaminants oxidize the surface of the flower which can lead to browning of the product itself, and alteration to look, smell, taste and potency of the product. And on an even more serious health note, ozone and hydrogen peroxide are both toxic gases, meaning they can pose a risk both to consumers and to employees at facilities using this remediation technique.
Another popular decontamination technique is known as radiofrequency, or RF, which uses radio waves to make water molecules within the product vibrate and generate heat to kill microbes similar to how a microwave oven works. However, because it is dependent on moisture, microbes in dry areas of the flower are not effectively remediated by RF, meaning that microbes in these areas can continue to grow and spread even after the product has passed testing measures. In addition, RF may also cause burns on the product, along with potential negative effects to potency, look, smell and taste.
In contrast, Photonic Decontamination, a technology patented by Rad Source Technologies, produces short wavelength electromagnetic energy, better known as light, that is able to remediate contamination with a 99.9% confidence level. Even in the most tightly-packed flowers, the light wavelengths penetrate and destroy microbes at the DNA-level, meaning that it inactivates the reproduction of existing microbials.
Photonic Decontamination Keeps You Safe While Preserving the Product
Many of the best names in the industry, including Cannabis Cup winning growers, have been turning to photonic decontamination to ensure maximum quality and safety of their yield. It’s not only the safest and most effective remediation technique currently available, but it’s also the friendliest to the flower itself. As the only solution that is able to penetrate the entire flower without destroying or chemically modifying it, consumers are able to avoid the risks of incomplete, surface-only decontamination while also knowing that the product smell, taste, and potency are not being compromised in the process. Photonic Decontamination (light) is a widely-used process which uses the same technology that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved to prevent growth of dangerous microbes in food while keeping consumers and employees safe.
Your Cannabis, Your Health, Your Choice
High quality, contaminant-free cannabis products are more important than ever with the growing reforms and progress surrounding medical and recreational consumption. People suffering from Alzheimer’s, ALS, HIV and AIDS, Cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and many more medical conditions have joined adult-use recreational consumers and connoisseur’s in depending on safety, quality, and reliable potency of their product—raising the stakes of the process of remediating the product from the harmful bacteria. Even though moldy bud is the common enemy and the primary concern, consumers are now in a position to be aware and to carefully consider that not all remediation is created equally. This can start by understanding the health risks and compromised quality that can accompany chemically or radio frequency-remediate cannabis, as well as the benefits that can come from photonic decontamination. When choosing your strains, don’t stop at considering terpenes and THC. Remember optimal remediation processing is the secret to the best quality and safety.