Shoppers are largely unaware that most industrial cannabis grown right now undergoes some kind of decontamination to treat the industry’s expanding issue of mold, yeast and other microbial pathogens. As additional cannabis brands fail regulatory testing for contaminants, organizations are increasingly turning to radiation, ozone gas, hydrogen peroxide or other damaging remediation strategies to guarantee compliance and keep away from item recalls. It has created cannabis cultivation and extraction additional difficult and additional high priced than ever, not to mention inflaming the industry’s ongoing provide issue.

The issue is only going to get worse as states like Nevada and California are starting to implement additional regulations which includes even tougher microbial contamination limits. The technological and financial burdens are becoming also a lot for some cultivators, driving some of them out of small business. It is also placing an even higher strain on them to meet item demand.

It is crucial that the sector establishes new item requirements to reassure shoppers that the cannabis goods they purchase are protected. But it is even additional crucial that the sector appear beyond conventional agricultural remediation strategies to resolve the microbial troubles.

Compounding Dangers

Mold and other microbial pathogens are located everywhere in the atmosphere, which includes the air, meals and water that people today consume. When there is no consensus however on the overall health consequences of consuming these contaminants by means of cannabis, dangers are definitely emerging. According to a 2015 study by the Cannabis Security Institutei, molds are commonly harmless in the atmosphere, but some could present a overall health threat when inhaled, specifically to immunocompromised people. Mycotoxins resulting from molds such as Aspergillus can trigger illnesses such as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Even when killed with remedy, the dead pathogens could trigger allergies or asthma.

Photo credit: Steep Hill- a petri dish of mold development from tested cannabis

There is an abundance of pathogens that can have an effect on cannabis cultivation, but the most prevalent sorts are Botrytis (bud rot, occasionally named gray mold) and Powdery Mildew. They are also amongst the most devastating blights to cannabis crops. Quite a few chemical controls are accessible to assist protect against or stem an outbreak, ranging from fungicides and horticultural oils to bicarbonates and biological controls. When these controls could save an otherwise doomed crop, they introduce their personal possible overall health dangers by means of the overexposure and consumption of chemical residues.

The situation is additional compounded by the truth that the states in which cannabis is legal can not agree on which microbial pathogens to test for, nor how to test. Colorado, for instance, needs only 3 pathogen tests (for salmonella, E. coli, and mycotoxins from mold), even though Massachusetts has exceedingly strict testing regulations for clean goods. Massachusetts-primarily based testing lab, ProVerde Laboratories, reports that roughly 30% of the cannabis flowers it tests have some type of mold or yeast contamination.

If a cannabis item fails needed microbial testing and can not be remedied in a compliant way, the grower will inevitably practical experience a extreme – and potentially crippling – economic hit to a lost crop. Willow Industries, a microbial remediation corporation, says that cannabis microbial contamination is projected to be a $three billion issue by 2020ii.

Remediation Falls Quick
With the economic stakes so higher, the cannabis sector has taken cues from the meals sector and adopted a wide variety of approaches to remediate cannabis harvests contaminated with pathogens. Ketch DeGabrielle of Qloris Consulting spent two years studying cannabis microbial remediation strategies and summarized their pros and consiii.

He located that some prevalent sterilization approaches like autoclaves, steam and dry heat are impractical for cannabis due the decarboxylation and harsh harm they inflict on the item. Some growers spray or immerse cannabis flowers in hydrogen peroxide, but the resulting moisture can truly trigger additional spores to germinate, even though the chemical reduces the terpene content material in the flowers.

Powdery mildew begins with white/grey spots noticed on the upper leaves surface

The additional favored, technologically sophisticated remediation approaches consist of ozone or comparable gas remedy, which is reasonably affordable and treats the whole plant. Nevertheless, it is complicated to gas goods on a huge scale, and gas outcomes in terpene loss. Microwaves can kill pathogens properly by means of cellular rupture, but can burn the item. Ionizing radiation kills microbial life by destroying their DNA, but the approach can make carcinogenic chemical compounds and damaging free of charge radicals. Radio frequency (which DeGabrielle considers the most effective process) properly kills yeast and mold by oscillating the water in them, but it can outcome in moisture and terpene loss.

The bottom line: no remediation process is excellent. Prevention of microbial contamination is a superior strategy. But all 3 traditional approaches to cannabis cultivation – outdoors, greenhouses and indoor develop operations – make it incredibly complicated to manage contamination. Mold spores can very easily acquire a foothold each indoors and out by means of air, water, meals and human make contact with, speedily spreading into an epidemic.

The sector requires to establish new good quality requirements for item purity and employ new expanding practices to meet them. Sophisticated technologies can assist make close to excellent expanding ecosystems and microclimates for expanding cannabis free of charge of mold contamination. Online of Issues sensors combined with AI-driven robotics and automation can considerably minimize human intervention in the expanding approach, along with human-induced contamination. All-natural sunlight supplemented with new lighting technologies that present close to complete-light and UV spectrum can stimulate robust development additional resistant to illness. Computational fluid dynamic models can assist growers realize optimal temperature, humidity, velocity, filtration and sanitation of air flow. And tissue culture micropropagation of plant stock can remove virus and pathogen threats, to name just a couple of of the most recent innovations.

Developing legal cannabis right now is a risky small business that can expense growers millions of dollars if pathogens contaminate a crop. Remediation strategies to get rid of microbial contamination could perform to varying degrees, but they introduce an additional set of troubles that can effect customer overall health and comprise item good quality.


i. Holmes M, Vyas JM, Steinbach W, McPartland J. 2015. Microbiological Security Testing of Cannabis. Cannabis Security Institute. http://cannabissafetyinstitute.org/wp-content material/uploads/2015/06/Microbiological-Security-Testing-of- Cannabis.pdf

ii. Jill Ellsworth, June 2019, Eliminating Microbials in Marijuana, Willow Industries, https://willowindustries.com/eliminating-microbials-in- marijuana/#

iii. Ketch DeGabrielle, April 2018, Biggest U.S. Cannabis Farm Shares Two Years of Mold Remediation Analysis, Analytical Cannabis, https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/biggest-us-cannabis-farm-shares-two-years-of-mold-remediation-study-299842