Microbials in Cannabis & the Importance of Testing

Cannabis plants are at risk of being contaminated with microorganisms, such as bacteria, mold, and/or yeast, during growth, storage and packaging.  Testing for these microbes is crucial as they can cause severe illness.

Some of the types of testing includes qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction), Petri film plate testing, serological testing, and others.  qPCR is the most sensitive and accurate form of microbial testing since it utilizes molecular biology to identify microorganisms by detecting DNA.

How bacteria and microbes develop on cannabis products

Some conditions that make cannabis susceptible to such microbial growth are moisture and water activity, which can also be relevant, not only throughout its growth, but, in the transport and the processing of such products. Contamination of cannabis products with E. coli and Salmonella can originate from product processing materials like fertilizers, water, and packaging material.  Cannabis infused food products can also be contaminate with pathogenic bacteria through poor hygiene during preparation.  

How you can stay safe

Cannabis testing is the only way to ensure that your product is free of these microorganisms. It is an essential part of the cannabis growth and selling process, so that no hazardous compounds and/or harmful organisms are not transferred to the customer via the cannabis product. From a consumer’s perspective, make sure to only buy from a licensed dispensary that sells tested cannabis products that specifically states that the product is microbial-free. Many dispensaries are still operating illegally and they have no requirement to test their cannabis products for microbials or microbial toxins. Licensed cultivators, distributors and dispensaries selling recreational marijuana are required by law to test for microbials so it is important for the consumer to understand that and look on the Bureau of Cannabis Control to see which commercial cannabis businesses are licensed.

Utilizing the considerations reviewed above can minimize or eliminate the chances of consuming or selling a product that is contaminated.  From a distributor and cultivator’s perspective of selling cannabis for recreational or medicinal purposes, you are responsible for being aware of the California state testing requirements. If you decide to sell an untested cannabis product to a dispensary and if a consumer is injured due to a product that was sold to him/her, you could be legally liable, whereby, you are held accountable for the potential damages. This can include being sued in a civil manner or even in a criminal form by the state.  It is essential then, that testing be performed, as it is the only way to ensure the safety of your product.