Currently, the cannabis industry is in an odd stage of growth. Individual states have created mandatory consumer safety requirements for medical and recreational products, yet some states are still working out the kinks with their new systems and others are lagging behind with meaningful regulation. In the wild west of the cannabis space, it’s particularly important for medical cannabis patients to be picky. After all, you are your best medical cannabis advocate. Here’s are the medical cannabis products it may be best for patients to avoid.
1. Products that have been exposed to commercial chemicals
Of specific concern was the use of myclobutanil, which is a fungicide often used in grapes. The chemical is considered safe for eating when used properly, but when it’s heated and inhaled, that’s another story.
When smoked, myclobutanil transforms into toxic hydrogen cyanide. Exposure in high doses can be fatal, in low doses, this compound is aggravating and can potentially make you sick. Medical cannabis patients don’t want to be inhaling this stuff.
No matter where you live, there are a few ways to avoid pesticide contaminated bud. Here are some general tips and tricks:
- Grow yourself and grow organic
- Ask a caregiver to grow organically for you
- Visit your caregivers grow to get an idea of how they treat their plants
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, like:
- What kinds of products do you use on your plants?
- Do you flush your soil?
- Have you sent samples into a lab?
- Do your research on who supplies for your collective or dispensary
- Chat up your budtenders to get a better idea of what cannabis products are the safest and best suit your needs
- Do your research on companies that supply your CBD or hemp oil online
- Buy lab tested bud whenever possible
If you’re making your own medical cannabis oil, it is highly recommended to only use organic cannabis. While a particular batch may pass pesticide testing in a given state, cannabis oil is highly concentrated.
An extract or an oil made from bulk bud considered safe may not actually pass pesticide screening in a concentrated form. Thus, it’s best to go organic from the start.
2. Products that contain potentially toxic additives
Recently, Project CBD has released reports on possible toxic additives in vaporizer cartridges. Of particular concern was propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). Both of these thinning agents are considered safe to consume orally, but when heated and inhaled they are less safe.
In fact, both compounds transform into formaldehyde when heated to high temperatures. PEG also breaks down into the known carcinogen acetaldehyde.
While these toxins seem to be released at temperatures higher than the average pen vape (446˚F, 230˚C), holding on to a button too long or taking hard draws may increase the heat in your vapor pen and thereby put you close to the off-gassing temperature.
This is not to say that all vapor cartridges are bad. Based on this evidence, however, it may be beneficial to be a bit more picky about the products you buy. Ingredient lists should tell you whether or not PG or PEG were added to your pen. If concerned, contact a manufacturer.
Instead of purchasing these products, opt for cartridges that use vegetable glycerine or medium-chain triglyceride oils (MCT oils, like coconut oil). Though, unfortunately, even MCT oils can produce small amounts of acetaldehyde when heated to high temperatures. Though, it produced 33 times less than PEG.
For more information on how to buy healthier vapor cartridges, check out the full article here.
3. Discolored extractions
As a general rule of thumb, if it doesn’t look good, smell good, or taste good, you probably don’t want to put it in your body. Sometimes low-quality butane hash oil (BHO) and other concentrates will be a deep brown color.
These products are not ideal for medical cannabis patients, who may have compromised immune systems and less able to clear out environmental toxins from the body.
Whether or not discolored extractions (or any extracts, for that matter) have unsafe levels of residual solvents will vary from sample to sample. Opting for lab tested extractions whenever possible will help you avoid inhaling potentially harmful or irritating solvents.
However, discolored extractions may have been heated at very high temperatures, compromising the integrity of the plant and its medicinal compounds. This makes for poor quality medicine.
To find a high-quality concentrate, look for a golden or amber color. Sometimes it can be a little on the dark amber side, but avoid products that are:
- Muddy brown and waxy
- Lumpy or burnt looking
- Hard black rocks
Discolored or weird textured extractions may also hit very harshly and induce uncomfortable coughing that can be a little too jarring for someone who is ill. In times of sickness, it’s recommended to get the highest quality products that are still in an affordable price range.
It’s important to note that Rick Simpson Oil is almost always a very dark green, black, brown color. Some types of hash that have not been extracted using a solvent may also be quite dark. If you’re concerned, ask a budtender if possible.
4. Bud that may be moldy
In another California investigation, Steep Hill Lab in Berkely gathered 20 samples of dispensary bud and analyzed them for the presence of pathogenic bacteria and fungus. For this work, Steep Hill teamed up with Dr. George Thompson, an infectious disease expert at UC Davis, and Dr. Joseph Tuscano, at the UC Davis Cancer Center.
After analyzing the microbial DNA in the samples, Dr. David Land of Steep Hill was taken aback. He told KPIX 5,
We were a little bit startled that ninety percent of those samples had something on them. Some DNA of some pathogen.
The team found several different harmful pathogens. As Thompson explains,
Klebsiella, E.coli, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, these are all very serious infections for anybody in the hospital. But particularly in […] the cancer population.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid moldy cannabis is to purchase bud that has passed laboratory inspections. However, many people around the world lack access to proper cannabis safety measures. For everyone else, there are a few simple but imperfect ways to avoid moldy cannabis:
- Avoid cannabis with visible white, gray, or black fuzz
- Avoid cannabis that smells musty
- Avoid cannabis bud that is too damp or has been exposed to rain and water
- Avoid smoking cannabis that tastes “off” or causes chest pain and excessive irritation when inhaled
- If possible, make sure your grow room is humidity controlled
- Handle cannabis plants with clean hands and clothing
- Make sure your grow room is well ventilated
- Always keep your grow room clean and animal-free
- Check out your caregiver’s grow and make sure it is clean, dry, and well ventilated