Most people assume that since cannabis is a plant, naturally, it must be safe. However, just like any other vegetable you buy these days, your buds could be laced with dangerous chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, and preservatives.
In California for example, lab testing is just barely beginning to catch up with the millions of pounds of legal cannabis circulating though dispensaries. New state standards require that cannabis be screened for 66 pesticides, harmful chemicals, and dangerous fungi, but so far, the labs haven’t been able to keep up.
Some shops have already chosen to send their products out for testing, but others are lagging. “We test because, while cannabis itself is very safe, it can be contaminated with things that are not safe,” says Steve DeAngelo, owner of Harborside Collective in Oakland, CA. “Pesticides are one of the things, but there are a variety of pathogenic molds and fungi that can also grow on cannabis. It can be dangerous to human beings, especially people who have compromised immune systems,” he continued.
Unfortunately, Harborside is still among the few. According to statistics from the Cannabis Industry Association, only 5% of products for sale in the state are being tested. Keep in mind this number is from before July 2018 when new regulations came into play, so that number could be significantly larger now. There are many dispensaries still operating illegally within the state though, so chances are, they’re not sending products out to a third-party lab.
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“The current supply of cannabis in the retail market is, I would say questionable,” said Tony Daniel of Steep Hill Labs. Fungicides and pesticides are of particular concern here. Although the FDA deems them safe to be used on food (I beg to differ), smoking these chemicals is a whole different story.
For example, myclobutanil, a common fungicide used in crops, converts to cyanide gas when combusted. This is extremely toxic and can be very hazardous to your health. It was found in Bloom Brand vape cartridges, which have since been recalled.
Out in Colorado – another legal market – even though dispensaries are putting ingredient labels on their jars, consumers don’t seem to care or notice that there may be harmful substances in their beloved buds.
I recently saw some photos of various jars of high end cannabis from a Denver dispensary that included well known strains with 19-24% THC levels, so relatively pricey. But the ingredient label on the back would make be return these in a heartbeat. They included things like EDTA, sodium lauryl sulfate, isopropyl alcohol, cobalt, and many other ingredients that my instincts tell me I shouldn’t be smoking.
Don’t get me wrong, good-quality, organic cannabis is a wonderful thing that I partake in regularly. But before you light up next time, take into consideration that mother earth’s cannabis may not be the only thing you’re inhaling.