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Don’t Let Secret Shoppers Find Microbes on Your Cannabis Products

By Chris Bond
Published: October 25, 2021
Presented by Rad Source
Key Takeaways

In addition to required self-testing in some markets, various state, regional and local agencies employ the use of secret shoppers to randomly purchase cannabis products. They are looking for obvious infractions of laws and regulations, but more importantly, they are looking for not so obvious ones… microbial contamination of cannabis products.

The legal cannabis trade has swelled to a $60 billion dollar industry, projected to reach $100 billion dollars by the year 2030. 2020 saw a 67 percent increase in legal cannabis sales over the previous year. Additionally, at least 12 to 14 percent of the population claims to be a user of cannabis, CBD, or other cannabis products. That is a significant chunk of the population, but the “real” number is almost certainly higher. Over 30 million pounds of the “green gold” is produced annually. It is no wonder, then, that regulators are out in full force to monitor the purity of this volume of product.

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Producers must protect their customers and themselves from impurities in their product. In addition to required self-testing in some markets, various state, regional and local agencies employ the use of secret shoppers to randomly purchase cannabis products. They are looking for obvious infractions of laws and regulations, but more importantly, they are looking for not so obvious ones… microbial contamination of cannabis products.

Microbial contamination is a real problem in the cannabis industry, and it can eat into your profits in a big way. Up to 15 percent of the cannabis on the market is contaminated. That means up to one in six to seven batches has some form of microbial contamination on it. This poses a far greater threat than pesticide residue on cannabis which is found on only about 2 percent of tested product. Selling bad cannabis isn’t just bad business, it can pose a significant threat to the public health, especially to immunocompromised individuals. Contamination doesn’t just occur in cannabis grown in dingy basements using unsanitary methods; it can happen in even the most well-run operations if they are not careful and do not engage in microbial remediation.

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How Contamination can Happen

Most contamination is the result of poor post-harvest handling of cannabis. This can be due to sampling cannabis for lab testing before it is fully dried and cured. If a sample is tested too soon after harvest, the moisture content will be too high, which can favor the presence of microbes. This can also occur because there are deficiencies in the growing facility and/or with the sanitation practices. Mold spores can form and be carried around easily within a facility. If there is any pooling water or wet surfaces, mold can start to form. Dripping hoses and slow draining systems can also harbor or host contaminants that can find their way onto your flower. Circulating air, and even the normal movement of workers can spread these spores throughout the environment. Fully functioning air circulation systems with proper filtering can however alleviate this, but sometimes that is not enough.

Grower trimming harvested cannabis.

The trimming process can invite mold as well. The mere act of making a cut, especially if doing wet trimming, creates a wound in plant tissue. Molds and yeasts are ripe to enter that wound, and even the healthiest and most robust of plants can be susceptible to them. Any environment that is less than sterile can host these unwanted guests. The trim from cannabis is another point of contamination. The freshly cut stems and leaves are prime for mold to set up in and it is then easy to inadvertently pass that along to the flower if handlers are not careful.

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Maintaining sanitation protocols and making sure that all growing, handling, and processing of cannabis is done in a clean environment is the best way to prevent mold contamination. This is often easier said than done though. All of the activity involved in preparing flowers for commercial sale creates numerous opportunities for mold and mildews to develop.

To protect the consumer, government regulators and lawmakers require lab testing by a third party to look for microbes. While the acceptable levels of contamination vary from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the best way to make sure that secret shoppers don’t take a contaminated sample from your supply is to remediate your cannabis with some of the industry’s latest technology.

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The Solution

The only way to be certain that your product is going to pass any lab test is to conduct your own microbial decontamination. The best way to do this is with photonic decontamination, which provides 99.9 percent confidence levels for any test that your cannabis may be subjected to. Rad Source’s patented photonic decontamination using Quastar technology is the only remediation solution that penetrates the entire flower for cannabis decontamination without destroying the flower or chemically modifying it.

This powerful tool processes intact flowers in a bag, instead of sending them into the chamber loose and unprotected. This additional layer of care provides additional protection from the chance of reintroducing microbial populations post decontamination. Once the flower inside the bag has been inactivated by way of the photonic decontamination, you can rest assured that the product is safe all the way to its final destination for sale, storage, or to a lab.

This in-bag remediation technology will leave no doubt that your cannabis is clean from mold, powdery mildew, aspergillus, BTGN, yeast, salmonella, E. coli, and many more types of damaging microbial contaminants.

The Bottom Line

The only way to stay competitive in this growing business is to make sure that you offer only the safest and purest of products. Demanding safe and sanitary practices from the growroom to post-harvest handling, to making sure budtenders and employees are keeping jars, counters, and other high-touch surfaces clean and sanitized, is a must. That isn’t always enough though. Microbes and other contaminants can still find their way into your product. Make sure that you have the tools you need to stay ahead of the secret shoppers, and state regulators.

Protect public health while protecting your bottom line. Not all remediation systems are created equally. You get what you don’t pay for. Make sure that when secret shoppers enter your facility or test product that came from your greenhouses, that they leave with nothing more than safe, quality cannabis products.


RadSource logoRad Source is a global life science leader developing real world solutions using their patent Quastar® light emitting technology. They provide safe proven and reliable solutions that help address humanity’s most challenging issues. Visit radsource.com to learn more, or contact [email protected]

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Presented By

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Written by Chris Bond | Certified Permaculture Designer, Nursery Technician, Nursery Professional

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Chris Bond’s research interests are with sustainable agriculture, biological pest control, and alternative growing methods. He is a certified permaculture designer and certified nursery technician in Ohio and a certified nursery professional in New York, where he got his start in growing.

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