Cannabis cultivators are familiar with the traditional challenges of the harvesting process, but as the legal cannabis landscape continues to evolve, the hurdle of passing contaminant testing looms over manufacturers of all sizes and experience.
In most states, commercial cannabis products have to go through a series of contaminant tests before they can be sold to consumers. While the specific requirements vary by state, the tests typically look for microbials, pesticides, and heavy metals. Consumer awareness is increasing as testing ramps up and product recalls make headlines, so more smokers seek consistently clean cannabis.
The nature of cannabis as an agricultural product makes it difficult for growers to guarantee every crop will pass microbial testing. Cannabis is a quick-growing plant that can produce a high yield of mature plants, but this also makes the production process highly susceptible to contamination. If climate conditions aren’t exactly right, for example, mold and bacteria can more easily infect cannabis, which can then create additional issues in the supply chain.
Faced with state-mandated microbial testing and consumer demand, cultivators have a choice: decontaminate their crop before testing or have an in-house remediation process ready.
Microbial testing follows a simple structure. Batches of flower are tested for colony forming units, or CFUs, of certain harmful pathogens. If a batch is not adequately decontaminated and fails testing, the product cannot be sold until it goes through remediation. This gives growers a chance to decrease contaminant levels and go through another round of testing. If they can successfully remediate product, it can then be sold on the consumer market. If remediation fails, a manufacturer usually has to destroy the entire harvest.
Some manufacturers remediate by extracting flower into concentrate, a process that typically rids the product of its microbial contaminants. Although extraction is a reliable method, it hurts the manufacturer’s bottom line because flower almost always sells at a higher wholesale price than concentrate. The differences vary by state, but the principle doesn’t change by region: flower has better margins than concentrates, and remediated products will always sell at a markdown. In short, if you can protect your flower, you’ll protect your profit.
Outside extraction, the options for remediation are limited, which is why we created the WillowPure ozone system. Instead of having to rely on extraction labs, now cultivators can remediate in-house, using technology that reduces contamination without destroying the flower.
While this is a viable option for most cultivators, there’s another way to approach the contamination issue in cannabis: implement decontamination technology before initial testing to reduce the need for remediation.
Forward thinking producers are starting to decontaminate their products before initial testing. In addition to appeasing regulators, passing tests the first time means avoiding the need for remediation, which saves cultivators valuable time and money.
While remediation is reactive in nature–it’s used after a contamination issue has been identified–decontamination is proactive: it’s implemented in order to create a more stable supply chain. Considering the regulatory environment today, especially the focus on consumer safety, it’s no surprise companies are moving away from remediation as they learn about the benefits of decontamination.
A system like the WillowPure can be implemented into the harvesting process as a one-of-a-kind cannabis kill-step. The technology reduces or eliminates aspergillus species, microbials, and total yeast and mold counts while retaining the medicinal properties of the product. WillowPure technology effectively decontaminates flower without affecting potency, cannabinoid content, or terpene profiles. The scalable system can be used at multiple points in the harvesting process, making it a perfect solution for decontamination.
By learning about decontamination (and remediation) options, growers can more confidently face testing and cement their status as a consistent source of clean cannabis. Contact Willow Industries today to find out how we can help with your decontamination and remediation needs.