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The Importance of Public Health and Cannabis Decontamination

By Chris Bond | Last updated: May 31, 2021
Presented by Rad Source
Key Takeaways

Instead of just looking at profits, a fruitful cannabis producer will also consider how their business model impacts society and the environment.

The last few decades have seen an increase in the way many companies view their bottom-line and how they manage their business. Instead of just being concerned about profits, they look at how their business model impacts society and the environment. This notion is sometimes referred to as the triple Ps: People, Planet and Profits.

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This so-called triple-bottom-line (TBL) approach considers all the stakeholders in a company’s business — employees, suppliers, customers — and not just the shareholders. As cannabis businesses come into their own, this approach should be a key consideration for them as well. Businesses that produce or sell cannabis products have an obligation to public health and the environment. They can make sure that only the safest and cleanest products make it to the consumer, primarily by decontaminating cannabis to remove harmful bacteria, molds, or other pathogens that may have been introduced at various points along the production cycle.


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Cannabis smoker lighting a joint at homeWhen cannabis products are inhaled via vaping or smoking, contaminates can directly enter a user’s bloodstream.

People

People are the consumers of cannabis products (CBD in pet treatments notwithstanding). It is therefore incumbent on cannabis growers, suppliers, and vendors to make sure they offer a product that is safe for people to use. Many harmful pathogens and mycotoxins can be present in cannabis products that may harm or even prove fatal to individuals that consume them.

Just because microbes and spores can't be seen by the naked eye, doesn’t mean they aren’t present at harmful levels in cannabis that hasn’t been decontaminated. When cannabis products are inhaled via vaping or smoking, contaminates can directly enter a user’s bloodstream. Scientific journals abound with recorded cases of chronic pulmonary diseases caused by inhaling contaminated cannabis. While harmful when consumed by anyone, contaminated cannabis is especially dangerous if consumed by individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those using medical cannabis to treat symptoms of diseases or conditions.

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(Ask a Nurse: "With recent news around vaping and lung injuries, how concerned should I be with vaping cannabis?")

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Mold in cannabis, including fungi, rusts, yeasts and bacteria can cause a number of serious health problems. While decontamination methods do exist, many come with drawbacks. Ozone, for example, only treats the surface of the bud, leaving the microbes inside to grow and multiply. Since it’s also an oxidizer, ozone will remove terpenes and change the color of the flower from green to brown. Radio Frequency (RF) is another commonly used decontamination method. Similar to a microwave, this technology uses moisture to generate heat by activating the water molecules within the crop. This approach has many drawbacks. If the flower has uneven levels of moisture, RF can create hot spots that will damage those parts of the flower by engaging the decarboxylation process and negatively affects the THC levels. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) sterilization is another method but, like ozone, it can damage terpenes.

To keep people safe, cannabis must be properly grown, handled (including decontamination), stored, and transported observing sanitary protocols along with temperature and humidity levels. Products should be tested along the way for contaminates so that affected products do not make it into people’s hands.

Cannabis products should be remediated before they make it to the market. Most regulations throughout Europe, Canada, and the US require that there be only 100-1000 colony-forming unit’s (CFUs) per gram of any contaminate that can’t be inhaled. For products that can be inhaled, there is generally no tolerance for any trace amount. This includes pathogens and contaminants such as E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Cannabis growing outdoors Cannabis must be grown to the highest standards of any other consumable crop or higher.

Planet

Cannabis is an agricultural crop. Responsible growing begins without the use of harmful pesticides, which can contaminate the crop and cause environmental damage. While low-impact pesticides are allowable in sustainable growing systems, there are hundreds of caustic and harmful pesticides used as a matter of course throughout commercial agriculture. If not thoroughly cleaned, these chemicals leave residue on the crop.

On cannabis, chemicals may be used at several points along the production chain, including post-harvest and storage phases. Only food-grade chemicals should be used during curing, drying, trimming, and storage. The water used to irrigate and wash the cannabis can harbor pathogens and chemical residues as well. Water sources must be tested regularly for environmental contaminants that can become incorporated into the cannabis crops.

(Read also: The Challenge of Growing Environmentally Responsible Cannabis)

Contamination is also possible from animals and insects as diseases being introduced to the crops, or faecal matter being left in or on the product. Decontamination is essential to neutralize these biological threats as well.

As a crop, cannabis must be grown to the highest standards of any other consumable crop or higher. It must be grown with consideration for the environment and be handled in a sterile and sanitary manner to avoid potential environmental and biological contaminants. Because cannabis can’t be grown and handled in a 100 percent sterile environment, it must be decontaminated before making it to market.

Bills of money next to a cannabis plantA contaminated cannabis crop can cost growers thousands to millions of dollars.

Profits

No company can take positive societal or environmental actions if it’s financially struggling. Financial sustainability is one of the three pillars for any business committed to a triple-bottom-line approach. Decontamination of cannabis, of course, has the societal and environmental benefits as outlined above, but there is a financial component as well.

Making sure a clean product goes to market will help ensure continued business and hopefully, continued profits. New players enter the cannabis market all the time. At some point, market saturation will bar new entrants and force others out of business. To immunize one’s company against this economic reality, it is important to only produce safe, high-quality products. This is ensured when companies, suppliers, and producers decontaminate their products.

(Read also: Why Secret Shoppers are Becoming More Common at Dispensaries)

The flip side of profits is avoiding expenses. Besides a lack of demand, avoiding losses is critical, too. A contaminated cannabis crop can cost growers thousands to millions of dollars. These costs will mount if any of that contaminated product makes it to the marketplace and lawsuits will ensue if anyone is harmed. If it doesn’t make it to the end consumer but is tested and found to have unacceptable levels of any pathogen, fines can follow.

Decontaminating a crop has costs. It costs to purchase the technology or pay another company to do the work for you. It costs to pay skilled labor to do the work, either your own employees or that of another business. It costs to certify results. However, these are all costs of doing business and recoupable in the product’s sale by building it into the price. These costs are far less than the cost of letting contaminated products make it to market.

How Rad Source Can Help

There are ethical, moral, and legal reasons to decontaminate cannabis products. Rad Source has the technology and products to get you there and make sure you offer only the safest products to your customers.

Rad Source’s patented cannabis Photonic Decontamination method inactivates pathogens at the molecular level, rendering them harmless. It is the same technology approved for use on food crops in the US, Canada, and Europe. Unlike other decontamination methods that may damage cannabis, Rad Source’s products penetrate all flowers on a molecular level without altering the flower. This process is known as Photonic Decontamination. Their technology will decontaminate the crop without impacting THC, cannabinoids, terpenes, trichomes, moisture, or the physical appearance of the treated cannabis.

Because Photonic Decontamination can penetrate the flower thoroughly, no microbes inside or outside the flower can grow back or redevelop after treatment, such as with other decontamination procedures. It also leaves no residue, as it uses light energy, rather than chemical. The short wavelength electromagnetic energy employed in Rad Source’s Photonic Technology is safe, clean, and green. Even packaged cannabis can be decontaminated, reducing the opportunity for post-treatment contamination and handling errors.



Rad 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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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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