No mould remediation method is ideal

Published Dec 20, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / PLG

Big weed is holding onto a big secret, and it’s time that consumers learn what’s really happening behind closed doors to bring us the vast selection of legal products we pay for today. Though most like to view cannabis as a natural product that’s entirely organic and without fault, the truth is that it’s an ideal breeding ground for mould and pathogens to flourish. This is exactly why recalls due to contamination are so common, and it’s a problem that the industry has been trying to mitigate using mould remediation methods.

What is mould remediation?

Mould remediation is a process that’s used to reduce levels of contamination back to what would naturally be present in cannabis. Essentially, it’s a way to use various elements and environments to break down and destroy bacteria, mould, and yeast so that it is safe for consumers to use. Without it, a fair amount of cultivated cannabis would never make it to market because it would not pass testing regulations. There are several different types of mould remediation that are used on cannabis, including:

  • Autoclave
  • Dry heat
  • Extraction
  • Gamma-ray radiation
  • Gas
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Microwave
  • Radio frequency
  • Steam
  • UV light

Problems with mould remediation

Mould remediation is used with one goal in mind and that is to pass industry standards tests, which some say provides producers with a crutch that’s easy to fall back on when something goes awry with a crop. Though the mould might be dead upon packaging, it most likely flourished once upon a time, hence the need for the treatment and the idea of using cannabis that’s once been home to mould spores is rather off-putting for consumers. With customer concerns set aside, one must consider the science behind mould remediation in cannabis.

The evidence suggests some methods leave behind deadly chemicals and compounds that have been linked to cancer, while others simply damage the integrity and quality of a product by degrading cannabinoid or terpene content or adding unnecessary moisture that leads to even worse problems that might arise after packaging, like mould spore germination. Some methods of remediation do so much damage to the plant that it’s barely usable for anything other than a select few types of cannabis concentrates, leading to massive financial losses for all those involved.

Cost of mould remediation

The exact average cost of remediation in the cannabis industry is unknown because very few producers are transparent about their chosen process out of fear that it might make consumers uncomfortable, and the total can range depending on the method chosen. Some like steam are incredibly cheap to implement, but they aren’t always as effective, whereas those that are most preferred by cultivators like gamma-ray radiation are most costly due to the specific tools, facilities, and conditions that are necessary to complete them.

A better solution

Mould remediation can help large-scale producers in certain situations, but it should always be the last line of defense against mould and bacteria development in cannabis because they nearly always come at a cost. Instead, a focus on prevention through the implementation of safe growing practices and environmental control is the best solution. Though these contaminants are found nearly everywhere in nature, making them impossible to avoid altogether, if the appropriate steps are taken, producers shouldn’t have to worry about turning out expensive mouldy crops.

What you need to know about cannabis irradiation

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