Making Marijuana Medicine Healthier

Tucked into marijuana buds, mold spores and spider mites and a host of other evils cause problems for the grower and the smoker.  Because of the illegal nature of the industry, medical marijuana users inhale every particle of their medicine hoping that their buds hold health not harm but they can’t be sure.  Tales trickle through the hills of growers hiding problems with their pot in order to sell it.  According to the East Bay Express, at least one scientific testing lab, finding a welcoming climate in California, has begun testing pot and providing the results to dispensaries in Oakland.

“For the first time in the 3,000-year history of human cannabis consumption, consumers will be provided a scientific assessment of the safety and potency of products prior to ingesting them,” says Oakland’s Harborside Health Center owner, Stephen DeAngelo.  He goes on to explain why testing has to become standardized procedure. “I mean, a dog walks in the grow room, and wags its tail — anything can be coming off that dog’s tail. It’s gross. Fertilizers with E. coli. Compost teas that they don’t make right, anaerobic tea that has elevated levels of E. coli and salmonella. It has to come. There’s no way that this is sustainable. All it takes is one story of immune-compromised people dying from aspergillus infection…”

The tests allow the dispensary owner to ensure that molds (which according to the testers are found in 5% of the marijuana) do not make it to the consumer.  The tests also provide a snapshot of the “stoniness” of the pot which allows the consumer to choose which buds will work best for their illness and, let’s face it, for some buyers allow them to choose which will get them highest.

Hat tip to NORML.  Note that Kevin Hoover’s Arcata Eye has an op/ed piece which has been picked up by NORML, too



  • Thank you so much for this info and it is about time that there is testing! I hope that they can test for Avid and other such products used on the indoor crops, tho they are supposed to flush through. This is so needed. As diligently and conscienciously as people may trim, it is impossible to see all the mold, and some will get through. Testing!!!

  • I wish they had addressed the issue of chemicals vs organic in the article. I don’t know if they are testing for that yet.

  • It drives me nuts when I read about a study testing marijuana and the difference between organic and non is never factored in. It seems to be widely understood that there are potent tars in marijuana smoke as in cigarette smoke, it would be interesting to measure those tars for constituents comparing organic vs. non-organic. When researchers went looking for a lung cancer association in pot smokers, knowing of those foul tars, they found the obverse…a seeming protective association. This is easy to Google. They are still foul tars, as any small water pipe will show the user. With testing will come more conscientious and rigorous standards for the medical market and potentially more conscious use by the average user.

    Putting any smoke into the body is a foreign to the body thing to do. Minimalizing that risk with higher standards of purity would be ideal.

  • Olmanriver, you articulated that very clearly! Thank you.

  • It had never occurred to me that there could be a test for all the bad things that are possible. What a great and good idea. A home test would be wonderful and I can see it in the future now.

  • Bunny, a home test would be wonderful especially if it picked up on pesticides. It might be a few years out there though. The tests these guys run is about $100 per time!

  • I have a friend who’s dying in Detroit and using MMJ. It’s the only thing giving him an appetite, though his weight’s already dropped over a hundred pounds. To think of anything but the most benign substances going into his already taxed system is intolerable.

    Humboldt Medical Supply in Arcata has very rigid guidelines for their “clean, green” certification of the MMJ they provide to patients. This definition outlines the standards for growing, processing, handling, storing, transpoting, packaging, labeling and distributing;their stuff is third-party tested, by whom I’m not sure.

    Curiously, Kym, HMS is a proponent of indoor growing techniques because the environment is so much more controllable (“clean”) compared to the presumably dirty outdoor world (bird droppings, bugs and dust seem to be the contaminants of concern). I also have someone very near and dear to me who treats a neurological disorder with the ingestion of one fresh leaf a day: another argument for the benefit of having year-round production, I suppose.

  • The year round production in order to provide the fresh leaves is reasonable (though deprivaters have been used with great success I understand). However, I can’t understand how outdoor pot could be a problem but outdoor tomatoes perfectly healthy?

  • An interview with Eric Heimstadt would answer your question. He references some study in the Netherlands that revealed e. coli or something.

  • I like the testing idea. There are far too many greedy growers who will try to hide their product’s problems just to sell it down the road. Spraying of harmeful pesticides late in the cycle and various mold issues are very common, but most growers find it nearly impossible to cut their losses instead of just lowering their prices. Who knows what health problems their product is causing to it’s end user (where ever and whom ever they may be).

    I’m not sure about the e.coli thing in the soil. How would that be smoked? Even if it was, the flame would kill it. I didn’t think e.coli could just waft into the bud from the air, but what do I know.

    BTW – I have heard from quite a few friends over the years about getting sick from smoking certain buds. They all have attributed it to mold, pesticides, and too much chemical fertilizer.

  • Vegemite, I’ve heard that also about some pot making people feel sickly so a test sounds great to me, too!

  • I want the cleanest, and safest product possible as anyone else, but I would also like to know the definite harms related to contaminants also, rather than just the contaminates. The reason this comes to mind, is I’m originally from the east coast. Where I lived, almost all that was available was nasty mexican brick, which I’m sure was laden with the nastiest pesticides that are probably illegal in the US, and all kinds of molds and mildews, and anything else that made it into it on the way from mexico.

    I knew people that had been smoking that stuff for decades, in 1/4oz a day quantities, and when I moved had no physical ailments.

    It blows my mind because thinking about it seems like it would be russian rullet with every bag. I can’t imagine the amount of nasty chemicals, fertilizers, mold, mildews, or whatever else. It’s hard to imagine those people still being alive after decades of smoking that crap, much less healthy.

    I hope I don’t get hammered cause I’m not by any means promoting people not eliminating all that nasty stuff, I would just like to see a honest assessment of the harms specifically associated with these things.

  • That’s a good point. We tend to assume that organic is necessarily healthiest but without some studies, we won’t/can’t know what harm specific chemicals do or don’t do. Another reason to legalize;>

  • Guerrilla in the Midst

    Kevin L. Hoover… that guy doesn’t know anything about the subject matter he discusses. Hoover, Robin Hashem, and all the “Nip it in the Bud” people only understand how to make inflammatory statements about grow houses at city council meetings and in newspapers. They do not understand anything about the science of indoor (or outdoor) gardening which should be offensive in a city filled with university-trained biological scientists. These people know less than the lady who writes about gophers mysteriously invading her straw garden bed (ever heard of castor oil?) for the NCJ. One of the provocateurs wrote in the Eye newspaper that they thought the slow trickle of water from a tube on their neighbor’s deck had “something to do with meth” while never considering that this was a water-cooled air conditioning system. Hoover only knows about indoor growing conditions to the extent that the people stupid enough to allow a newspaper reporter into their grow room know about proper methods. This has gone so far that the Arcata land use code now requires growing conditions which are so far removed from reality that even a sophomore dorm kid would laugh at them.

    The most common fungal infection which people generally do not observe unless they view the surface at 40x+ magnification is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is very easy to deal with by using common biological garden preparations (i.e. B.t., B.s., certain essential oils) coupled with a low (~40%) humidity environment. (that last sentence of advice is not to be used for illegal purposes…) Many people are converting humid bathrooms into supposedly sterile environments which results in powdery mildew easily penetrating leaf cuticles as it is the only other organism present in the environment.

    I attribute these fungus and bacteria problems to secrecy and ignorance. A small medical grower doesn’t call a pathologist or ask their local nursery for sound advice regarding cannabis. Instead, they search on the internet and find advice from people stupid enough to post pictures of their illegal grow room who are likely to be just as terrible of information sources as the kids Hoover interviews.

    • Guerrilla, I love so much about the marijuana culture. People tend to romanticize Prohibition but we live now among a prohibition that is subject to many of the same pitfalls and pluses as that of the 1920’s. However, many of the same people that would be charmed to discover a moonshiner ancestor are distraught at the thought of marijuana growers. The years put a polish on the problems associated with illegality.

      Because the situation is icurrent, society tends to see the grower under a microscope where flaws stand out and the good points (which are many) are blurred by focus on the bad. Unfortunately, the secrecy involved in illegal marijuana growing does make for a lot of problems. Whenever knowledgeable people such as yourself speak out, you help correct problems. Thank you.

  • Guerrilla in the Midst

    The moonshine comparison is good. The main problem with moonshine is moonshiners have no scruples. Methanol causes blindness, paralysis, death, and intense drunkenness. Contrary to urban legends, methanol is not accidentally introduced into moonshine. The typical country boy moonshiner knows that yeast produces ethanol. Anyone who paid attention in their basic biology course knows that yeast produces ethanol. Methanol is introduced into moonshine by moonshine dealers in the same way that crack is introduced into street cannabis by crack dealers. A moonshine maker accidentally adding methanol is just as likely as a cannabis grower accidentally adding crack. (“I grabbed the wrong spray bottle… PCP instead of NPK!”)

  • Guerrilla in the Midst, what do you know about bat guano? I’ve heard that it can cause health problems for both grower and smoker.

  • We love this blog! People are killing people over growing marijuana in our county and we just can’t stop growing weed, it is like smoking, oh wait a minute…..

    ….but we don’t want to die!

    We are freaks of the universe and have no right to be here, but killing people over growing weed is just plain wrong!

    We are all about outdoor, but don’t kick the indoor out of bed, if you know what I mean, and we don’t care who makes what on anything; as long as we get to smoke some of whatever it is. That is all we care about. Smoking weed of our choice and as much as we want to smoke, and oh…don’t forget our friends!

    But, man it is like when Haight went bad in our county now, with meth cookers and people ripping people off for weed and even killing them.

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