Controlling Contamination in Cannabis
As many cultivators are learning, growing cannabis at scale presents unique challenges, especially when it comes to controlling contamination. There are many reasons microbials occur in marijuana: the plant has a natural aptitude for uptaking toxins, airborne pathogens can easily make their way into grow facilities, and it’s virtually impossible to have perfect oversight of every aspect of the production process. Although pesticides are one way to control contamination, they’re not a perfect solution, and every state treats them differently. Make sure to check your local laws before using any pesticides on your cannabis.
So, that being said, what are the different ways in which microbials in marijuana occur? And, more importantly, how can this contamination be controlled?
Common Sources of Contamination
There are multiple ways cannabis can become contaminated, from employees to supplies, to environmental factors that are outside of your control. The best way to avoid an issue is by being aware of how cannabis can be contaminated in the first place, and then take action to avoid those scenarios.
Handling cannabis improperly is one of the most common ways to contaminate it. Employees should wear clean scrubs and face masks when handing the flower, especially during post-harvest processing. Gloves should also be worn and changed every time they come into contact with something other than the plant. We’re starting to see newer facilities being built with sterile areas for employees, which is a great precaution, but ensuring your staff stays informed and follows best practices is ultimately the best line of defence.
There are a lot of tools that are used to grow and process cannabis, such as buckets, scales, scissors, chairs, and work tables. Make sure that there are supplies for each room and that these supplies aren’t being transferred from one area to another, which can increase the possibility of cross-contamination.
Harvest and Post-Harvest
When cannabis is first harvested it is still full of moisture. This situation becomes a prime time for the plant to become contaminated with mold. If you’ve ever left a T-shirt outside for a few days, you know how hard it can be to get the article of clothing thoroughly dry. The same holds true with cannabis, so extra care must be taken to ensure that–during drying and curing–temperature, humidity, and air circulation are being controlled.
Location. Location. Location. This saying is true for not only real estate, but also cultivating cannabis. A lot of cultivation facilities are in areas that do not have the best environments for growing cannabis. And because fungal spores are extremely small, they can (and will) eventually get into a facility through the HVAC system. In another case, if a neighboring farm or property grows products that produce lots of pollen (or they use pesticides regularly), your crop could become contaminated due to wind drift and other environmental factors.
Decontaminate Your Cannabis
The best way to avoid contamination of your crop is to ensure your cultivation facility is clean, all equipment is decontaminated, and employees understand the best practices for preventing cross-contamination. Yet, even with these steps, contamination is still possible. Therefore, it is in your best interest to incorporate cannabis remediation technologies like WillowPure into your routine, which will allow you to save both your crop and top-line revenue.
The most reliable cannabis-specific solution on the market today, WillowPure offers a unique, ozone-based technology that reduces yeast, mold, bacteria, Aspergillus, E.Coli, and Salmonella, while still protecting your crop. Simply plug the WillowPure into any standard outlet, allow for a 15-minute warm-up period, load the food-grade plastic mesh trays evenly with your product, push the cannabis racks into the machine, shut the door, and press start. Just within the first hour of treatment, WillowPure removes about 50% of the microbials in marijuana, resulting in an end product that both passes state-mandated contaminate testing and is safe for consumers.
If you want to know what WillowPure can specifically do for your product, contact a Willow Industries representative today!