Issue of Marijuana Contamination

Posted by Milan Patel on June 8, 2018

Marijuana Plant


By all accounts, the cannabis industry is booming.

After taking a hard line stance against marijuana earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to have been forced to moderate his rhetoric recently as a sea of change in political support for the industry has overwhelmed his mostly unpopular perspective.

According to Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans say that marijuana should be legalized, and Washington is listening. Growing numbers of members of Congress are now sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, which Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced last August. 

The flood gates to this massive industry are opening. Are you ready?

According to statistics compiled by CNN, the cannabis and marijuana industry took in $9 billion in 2017. Experts see the industry growing to $11 billion in 2018, and to more than $21 billion by 2021.

As we witness booming growth and rising demand, strict regulations on microbial contamination of cannabis are putting pressure on the cannabis industry.

Marijuana Contamination and the Cannabis Industry

As noted in a report by ABC News, only five percent of the marijuana sold is tested for safety. At the same time, experts believe that as much as thirty percent of the marijuana sold in the United States is contaminated by fungus or bacteria.

While some microbial contamination may be harmless, it can be especially dangerous for users with a weakened immune system. This includes patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments or infected with HIV. Consumers turning to medical marijuana for relief may be at risk for infection or complication if distributors can’t ensure clean product. This is the focus for regulatory action.

Even as companies struggle to meet the growing demand for marijuana, they are also struggling to screen for microbial contaminants quickly and effectively. There are only 57 labs in California to test the millions of pounds of marijuana currently being grown. There are a handful of other labs scrambling to get up and running to meet the tsunami of required testing, but even this leaves California lab numbers grossly inadequate. Testing speed and simplicity will be critical as the industry suffers through these growing pains.

Pathogen Detection and the Root Cause of Contamination

Many companies are trying to solve the problem of marijuana contamination with pesticides and fungicides; however, this presents another layer of complication. Cannabis laced with the chemicals in pesticides and fungicides can be a health risk for consumers. For example, one common pesticide turns into hydrogen cyanide when heated, which can be deadly in high doses.

Other treatments that appear safer, such as ozonation and hydrogen peroxide, don’t address the root cause of the microbial infection. These are not true solutions because they only mask the problem, and contaminants continue to slip through the cracks and into the market.

The crop’s growing environment is often the source of the bacteria and fungus contamination. Even as companies screen samples to ensure every product on the market is clean, they also need to screen the growing environment. Any comprehensive solution must start by controlling and stabilizing the source of the crop.

Pathogen Detection for the Cannabis Industry

Growers, distributors, and manufacturers in the cannabis industry need to keep up with changing industry standards to stay ahead of regulations. This requires a comprehensive knowledge of effective pathogen detection solutions in both the environment where the product is grown and in samples of the product itself.

As states continue to legalize marijuana, industry oversight and regulations will increase. Businesses still waiting to address microbial contamination and the need for safety and pathogen detection are putting themselves at risk.

As more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, the cannabis industry is faced with becoming educated with regulations and lab testing to ensure the safety and protection of consumers. Get started today.

Want to learn more or see how DNA-based pathogen testing can ensure the safety of your product? Contact PathogenDx for more information on DNA-based pathogen testing. Visit the website for an online demonstration of our revolutionary testing kits.

Topics: cannabis contamination

Written by Milan Patel