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Inhaled medicinal cannabis and the immunocompromised patient

HI EVERYONE,

IN MY INTO TO 420 MAGAZINE IT STATES WHY I TYPE IN ALL CAPS AND OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT ME BUT WHAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH FELLOW CANNABIS USERS AND GROWERS ARE NOT ONLY THE BENEFITS BUT ALSO SOME OF THE SERIOUS AND POTENTIALLY LETHAL SIDE EFFECTS OF CANNABIS. PLEASE NOTE THAT I DO SO OUT OF LOVE TO MY FELLOW CANNABIS USER BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY AS A BIOPHARMACEUTICAL SCIENTIST WHO' VAST TECHNICAL AS WELL AS MEDICAL EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE WITH BENEFIT ALL!! ADDITIONALLY, I WOULD LIKE YOU ALL TO KNOW THAT I POSTED A PREVIOUS ARTICLE ON RISKS OF CANNABIS USE AND IIMUNOCOMPROMISED PATIENTS WHICH WAS DELETED BY 420 STAFF ON THE PRETEXT THAT THE ARTICLE WAS NON SCIENTIFIC, NEGATIVE "PRESS" FOR CANNABIS USERS AND MISLEADING. I URGE 420 MEMBERS AS WELL AS STAFF TO KEEP AN UNBIASED AND RESPECTFUL AWARENESS OF BOTH BENEFICIAL & POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS EFFECTS OF CANNABIS. PLEASE NOTE ALL ARTICLES I POST ARE PEER REVIEW SCIENTIFICALLY VALID PAPERS..

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Inhaled medicinal cannabis and the immunocompromised patient Rosa Ruchlemer & Michal Amit-Kohn & David Raveh & Lumír Hanuš Received: 11 June 2014 /Accepted: 2 September 2014 # Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014 Abstract Medicinal cannabis is an invaluable adjunct therapy for pain relief, nausea, anorexia, and mood modification in cancer patients and is available as cookies or cakes, as sublingual drops, as a vaporized mist, or for smoking. However, as with every herb, various microorganisms are carried on its leaves and flowers which when inhaled could expose the user, in particular immunocompromised patients, to the risk of opportunistic lung infections, primarily from inhaled molds. The objective of this study was to identify the safest way of using medicinal cannabis in immunosuppressed patients by finding the optimal method of sterilization with minimal loss of activity of cannabis. We describe the results of culturing the cannabis herb, three methods of sterilization, and the measured loss of a main cannabinoid compound activity. Systematic sterilization of medicinal cannabis can eliminate the risk of fatal opportunistic infections associated with cannabis among patients at risk. Keywords Cannabis . Immunocompromised host . Aspergillosis Abbreviations M.C. Medicinal cannabis Δ9 -THC Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol Introduction The use of medicinal cannabis (M.C.) has escalated in the past decade following FDA approval for its use in HIV-1 and cancer patients. M.C. has been recommended for the alleviation of pain, chemotherapy-induced refractory nausea, and vomiting, as a mood modifier, and for anorexia and can be used and combined in foods such as cookies, cakes, chocolate, sugar, and candy, in topical creams, suppositories, sublingual oil-like thick drops, by smoking, or by vaporizers. Parenteral administration by smoking or a vaporizer is reserved for patients who do not tolerate the oral or sublingual forms of cannabis [1]. Vaporizers have the advantage of delivering the active components of cannabis directly to the lungs without the byproducts of smoking, such as tar. However, inhalation of smoke or vaporized cannabis buds may potentially expose the user to life-threatening pulmonary infections as a result of direct inhalation of bacteria and molds which are ubiquitous on the surface of plants. The danger is primarily to the immunocompromised host. Since the mid-1970s, there have been medical case reports [2, 3, 5–7, 9, 13, 15, 16, 18] describing the detrimental effects of inhaled Aspergillus via cannabis among patients, most of whom were immunocompromised. In some of those cases, the outcome was fatal. Case The potential infectious dangers of cannabis were illustrated by a recent 19-year-old male patient treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, who was immunosuppressed by intensive R. Ruchlemer (*) Department of Hematology, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, 12 Shmuel Biet St., 91031 Jerusalem, Israel e-mail: ruc@szmc.org.il M. Amit-Kohn Department of Orthopedics, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, 12 Shmuel Biet St., 91031 Jerusalem, Israel D. Raveh Infectious Diseases Unit, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, 12 Shmuel Biet St., 91031 Jerusalem, Israel L. Hanuš Institute of Drug Research, School of Pharmacy, Medical Faculty, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel Support Care Cancer DOI 10.1007/s00520-014-2429-3 chemotherapy for Burkitt’s lymphoma/leukemia. He suffered from severe chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting refractory to ondansetron, aprepitant, and palonosetron. Cannabis prepared as cookies and sublingual drops were not tolerated, as the taste intensified his nausea and vomiting. Before proceeding to inhalation of M.C. either by vaporizer or smoking in his hospital isolation room, and out of concern that this may directly infect his lungs with potentially virulent pathogens, the cannabis was cultured. The culture yielded a massive growth of Aspergillus. An initial endeavor at sterilization of the cannabis by three methods readily available in hospitals resulted in reduced effectiveness of the compound. In an attempt to find the optimal balance between sterilization and efficacy, we undertook to compare the three hospital-based sterilization methods for quantitative loss of the active compound delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9 -THC). Materials and methods Medicinal cannabis was provided (with permission from The Israeli Ministry of Health) by The Israeli Society for Promoting the Use of Medical Cannabis and The Israeli Cannabliss Company, in the form of oil-like thick sublingual drops, dry cookies, and as dried buds. A Digital Volcano vaporizer device (Storz & Bickel America Inc. products, Oakland, CA, USA) was used to vaporize the cannabis buds [1]. The dried cannabis buds were cultured before and after evaporation by the Digital Volcano and after sterilization. The Digital Volcano blows 194 °C hot air through a grid, on which the lightly ground dry cannabis buds were placed. The hot air was collected in a balloon attached to this device, made by the same manufacturer. After the balloon was filled, the cannabis vapor was released onto blood, chocolate and Sabouraud agar plates, as well as on broth liquid medium which were incubated for bacterial and fungal cultures by standardized universal methods. Culture results were read after 48, 72, and 96 h. We applied three different methods of sterilizing the dried cannabis buds. Sterilization was initiated by autoclave (50- min steam cycle and 30-min drying cycle, temperature of 135 °C, pressure of 316 kPa/3160 mbar), by plasma H2O2 (STERRAD 100NX, ASP, Johnson & Johnson, USA; 49-min cycle, temperature of 51 °C, pressure of 30 Torr/40 mbar), and by ethylene oxide (The gas is made by 3 M Health Care, St. Paul, MN, USA; 165-min cycle, temperature of 55 °C, pressure of 892 mbar). Sterilization by gamma irradiation was not used, as this method requires a nuclear facility not readily available in hospitals worldwide. Effect of sterilization on Δ9 -THC content in M.C. buds The sample of M.C. was homogenized (by hands with rubber gloves) and partitioned into four equal samples. The first one was analyzed as it was, and the other three were analyzed after their sterilization by ethylene oxide gas, plasma, and heat (autoclave). Each sample was weighed twice and analyzed thrice for accurate results. Experimental procedure Twenty milligrams of a medicinal cannabis sample was extracted with an internal standard solution (50 μg tetracosane/ml ethanol) and filtered through cotton in a capillary tube. This filtrate was diluted twenty times with the same internal standard solution. One microliter of this sample was injected into a GC/MS for analysis. Instrumentation For quantitative analysis, the samples were analyzed by GC/MS in a Hewlett Packard G 1800B GCD system with a HP-5971 gas chromatograph with electron ionization detector. The software used was GCD PLUS CHEMSTATION. Conditions of the analysis Column: The column used was SPB-5 (30 m×0.25 mm×0.25 μm film thickness). Experimental conditions: The following were the experimental conditions in the study: inlet, 250 °C; detector, 280 °C; splitless injection/purge time, 1.0 min; initial temperature, 100 °C; initial time, 2.0 min; rate, 10 °C/min; and final temperature, 280 °C. The helium flow rate was 1 ml/min. Standards and solutions Concentrations of ethanol from 25.0 to 100.0 μg/ml of Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9 -THC) were used for the calibration curve, together with 50.0 μg/ml tetracosane as an internal standard [11]. Quantification of THC content was measured as a percentage of THC in the plant material, such that 15 % THC content in 1 g of plant material would be equivalent to 150 mg THC. With regard to the safety of the sterilization methods, plasma sterilization has been used for years to purify water in municipalities mainly in Europe. It is primarily used to sterilize medical equipment such as non-lumen catheters. This method leaves residual hydrogen peroxide with average concentrations of 0.22 % by weight, which is within the accepted limits of the American Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation; the FDA issued a warning only regarding high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide; therefore, we do not believe hydrogen peroxide was of concern. Gas sterilization in contrast leaves toxic residues of ethylene oxide and of its reaction products. As this method was only used to test the effect of sterilization on cannabis but not used for the patient, a discussion of the toxicity is not relevant for this paper. Results Cultures of M.C. dry buds before sterilization yielded mixed bacterial colonies, predominantly of Enterobacteriaceae in Support Care Cancer large numbers and generated colonies of a mixture of molds, primarily Aspergillus (identified by morphology alone) in abundant numbers. Cultures of the sublingual M.C. oily drops also produced numerous colonies of bacteria and molds but substantially less than the dry buds. A possible explanation of these results could be due to the high viscosity of the oily drops interfering with diffusion on agar and as a result of residual alcohol in the extract. Cultures of the Volcano balloon air after evaporating raw cannabis revealed a scanty mixture of several colonies of bacteria and molds. All three sterilization methods succeeded in completely sterilizing the M.C. cultures, with varying reductions in Δ9 -THC activity, i.e., 12.6 % (plasma), 22.6 % (autoclave), and 26.6 % (ethylene oxide gas) (Fig. 1 and Table 1). In accordance with these results, we subsequently supplied the patient with cannabis sterilized by the plasma method throughout the duration of chemotherapy. The sterilized cannabis significantly improved his well-being, nausea, and appetite, with no adverse effects. Sterilization of cannabis by the above methods did not entail added costs to the treatment, as the small volumes of cannabis were added to the much larger loads of the routine hospital sterilization. Discussion Medicinal cannabis can benefit cancer patients and improve their quality of life. However, extreme caution must be exercised in immunocompromised patients, in whom any gain may be offset by the risk of infection with potentially dangerous pathogens such as Aspergillus. Aspergillus is a ubiquitous fungus found worldwide in water, soil, air, vegetation, and decaying matter. Infection is acquired by inhalation of conidia. While exposure in immunocompetent hosts may result in colonization without disease, immunocompromised patients are at risk to develop invasive pulmonary aspergillosis associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The risk of infection has been linked to the concentration of conidia in the patient’s ambient air but requires both compromised cell-mediated immunity and macrophage and neutrophil function [9, 12, 16]. Marijuana smoke may damage alveolar macrophage function, further compromising the immunocompromised host [14]. Invasive aspergillosis has been described in immunocompromised patients in association with smoking marijuana following renal transplantation, leukemia, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, AIDS, and chronic steroid therapy [2, 4–6, 9, 16]. The mode of administration is of utmost importance in these patients. Cannabis in the form of cookies appears to be safe for immunocompromised patients, but these patients commonly suffer from intractable nausea, limiting their use. Inhalation of cannabis by smoking or by vaporization harbors a high risk for respiratory allergic reactions and severe or potentially fatal pulmonary infections particularly for immunocompromised patients. Heating of the cannabis buds by smoking or evaporation may not be sufficient for sterilization and is clearly not standardized to be safe for immunocompromised patients. Few publications have addressed this subject: Kagen et al. [7] showed the seroprevalence of various Aspergillus antigen species among 11 out of 21 cannabis smokers, implying previous exposure to Aspergillus. Verweij et al. [17] cultured 7 samples of marijuana and 98 cigarettes from 14 different commercial brands and found both to be heavily contaminated by fungal spores. They recommended that tobacco and cannabis should be eliminated from their patients’ environments. Mechoulam et al. [10] in 1976 showed that home baking of cannabis does not considerably degrade Δ9 -THC activity, but contamination by pathogens was not addressed. Levitz and Diamond [8] in 1991 attempted to solve the problem of cannabis contamination by home baking experiments using parsley, oregano, and tea Fig. 1 Influence of sterilization on Δ9 -THC content in medicinal marihuana buds. All three sterilization methods were effective in sterilizing the medicinal cannabis cultures, with varying reductions in the activity of the active compound Δ9 -THC ranging from 12.6 to 26.6 %. The plasma sterilization method appeared to entail the least degradation of the cannabis Δ9 -THC molecules Table 1 Loss of Δ9 -THC activity by sterilization Sample Content of Δ9 -THC Decrease of Δ9 -THC in % Unprocessed 15.0±0.2 Plasma sterilization 13.1±0.2 −12.6 Autoclave sterilization 11.6±0.5 −22.6 Ethylene oxide gas sterilization 11.0±0.6 −26.6 Support Care Cancer which are physically similar to cannabis as cannabis was not readily available. They recommended home baking the cannabis under dry heat of 150 °C (300 °F) for 50 min before smoking. In the present study of the three common sterilization methods available in medical centers, we found all three methods to be effective in sterilizing the cannabis. The plasma sterilization method entailed the least degradation of the cannabis Δ9 -THC molecules. The safety of sterilizing inhaled cannabis in immunocompromised patients needs to be confirmed in a large cohort of patients. To our knowledge, the Netherlands and Canada may be the only countries where there is strict central government control on medicinal cannabis. The Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), a part of the Dutch Ministry of Health, is responsible for the production, processing, and distribution of M.C. for medical use; based on their findings, there is no degradation of the active cannabis molecules during the irradiation. However, this sterilization method is not routinely available. Conclusions Smoking or vaporization of medicinal cannabis may lead to life-threatening pulmonary infections including aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients as a result of direct inhalation of bacteria and molds ubiquitous on the surface of plants. Sterilization of cannabis in immunocompromised patients is therefore imperative before use. We compared three different methods of sterilization and found plasma sterilization to be effective and cause the least quantitative loss of the active cannabis compound Δ9 -THC. This method may allow for the optimal balance between the product activity and safety. We emphasize the hazard involved in smoking or vaporization of medicinal cannabis for immunosuppressed patients and suggest strict government control in each country worldwide over growing, processing, and sterilization of medicinal cannabis. Acknowledgments The use of medicinal cannabis was approved by the chief national psychiatrist of the Israeli Health Ministry. Author contributions Study design and manuscript writing were under the responsibility of Rosa Ruchlemer, David Raveh, Michal AmitKohn, and Lumír Hanuš. David Raveh also cultured the cannabis. Lumir Hanus was also responsible for the sterilization studies. Conflict of interest None. Funding None. Data sharing statement No additional data available. References 1. Abrams DI, Vizoso HP, Shade SB, Jay C, Kelly ME, Benowitz NL (2007) Vaporization as a smokeless cannabis delivery system: a pilot study. Clin Pharmacol Ther 82:572–578 2. Cescon DW, Page AV, Richardson S, Moore MJ, Boerner S, Gold WL (2008) Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis associated with marijuana use in a man with colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol 26:2214– 2215 3. Chusid MJ, Gelfand JA, Nutter C, Fauci AS (1975) Letter: pulmonary aspergillosis, inhalation of contaminated marijuana smoke, chronic granulomatous disease. Ann Intern Med 82:682–683 4. Denning DW, Follansbee SE, Scolaro M, Norris S, Edelstein H, Stevens DA (1991) Pulmonary aspergillosis in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. N Engl J Med 324:654–662 5. Gargani Y, Bishop P, Denning DW (2011) Too many mouldy joints—marijuana and chronic pulmonary aspergillosis. Mediterr J Hematol Infect Dis 3:e2011005 6. Hamadeh R, Ardehali A, Locksley RM, York MK (1988) Fatal aspergillosis associated with smoking contaminated marijuana, in a marrow transplant recipient. Chest 94:432–433 7. Kagen SL (1981) Aspergillus: an inhalable contaminant of marihuana. N Engl J Med 304:483–484 8. Levitz SM, Diamond RD (1991) Aspergillosis and marijuana. Ann Intern Med 115:578–579 9. Marks WH, Florence L, Lieberman J, Chapman P, Howard D, Roberts P, Perkinson D (1996) Successfully treated invasive pulmonary aspergillosis associated with smoking marijuana in a renal transplant recipient. Transplantation 61:1771–1774 10. Mechoulam R, McCallum NK, Burstein S (1976) Recent advances in the chemistry and biochemistry of cannabis. Chem Rev 76:75–112 11. Nations U (2009) Recommended methods for the identification and analysis of cannabis and cannabis products. Manual for use by national drug analysis laboratories In: Editor (ed)^(eds) Book Recommended methods for the identification and analysis of cannabis and cannabis products. Manual for use by national drug analysis laboratories Laboratory and Scientific Section, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, City. 12. Scheretz RJ, Belani A, Kramer BS et al (1987) Impact of air filtration on nosocomial aspergillus infection: unique risk of bone marrow transplant recipients. Am J Med 83:709–718 13. Schwartz IS (1985) Marijuana and fungal infection. Am J Clin Pathol 84:256 14. Shay AH, Choi R, Whittaker K (2003) Impairment of antibacterial activity and nitric oxide production in alveolar macrophages from smokers of marijuana and cocaine. J Infect Dis 187(4):700–4 15. Sutton S, Lum BL, Torti FM (1986) Possible risk of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis with marijuana use during chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer. Drug Intell Clin Pharm 20:289–291 16. Szyper-Kravitz M, Lang R, Manor Y, Lahav M (2001) Early invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in a leukemia patient linked to aspergillus contaminated marijuana smoking. Leuk Lymphoma 42:1433–1437 17. Verweij PE, Kerremans JJ, Voss A, Meis JF (2000) Fungal contamination of tobacco and marijuana. JAMA 284:2875 18. Weinrieb RM, Lucey MR (2007) Treatment of addictive behaviors in liver transplant patients. Liver Transpl 13:S79–82
 
MR, NUNYABIZ,

I REGRET THAT YOU FEEL THAT I'M SINGLING OUT CANNABIS....QUITE THE CONTRARY. MY INTENT AS A EXTREMELY WELL SEASONED CANNABIS GROWER OF 40+ YEARS, A WELL INFORMED AS WELL AS CARING SCIENTIST IS TO EDUCATED PEOPLE ON BOTH THE BENEFITS AS WELL AS RISKS OF AN ETHNOBOTANICAL THAT CONTAINS 483 CHEMICAL CONSTITUENT COMPOUNDS. ADDITIONALLY, IN THE PROCESS OF GROWING AND CURING CANNABIS THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONTAMINANTS THAT CAN CAUSE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS . SO BY READING THESE ARTICLES YOU AS AN INTELLIGENT INDIVIDUAL MAKE AN EDUCATED CHOICE.....THE KEY WORD IS CHOICE....AS TO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.
 

Bush Doctor 77

Well-Known Member
Welcome. Interesting. My wife died of cancer, and was immunocompromised. She couldn't tolerate smoking, but did use some RSO infused baked goods. The extract was decarboxylated in the oven until CO2 stopped coming off. It did help her appetite, and she never got an infection, thank God. Would the IPA in the extraction process sterilize the extract? I also distill the IPA off the extract to recover my solvent, so it is heated to 180 degrees during distillation.
 
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BUSH DOCTOR 77,

SORRY FOR THE LATE REPLY. IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING OUR DAUGHTER OFF TO UNIVERSITY.

TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION IPA IS TECHNICALLY NOT CONSIDERED A STERILIZING AGENT, IN MICROBIOLOGY IT WOULD BE CONSIDERED A BACTERIALCIDAL AGENT. MOLDS AND FUNGI HAVE SPORES WHICH ARE LIKE M1 TANKS AND NEED SPORICIDAL AGENTS WHICH ARE TOXIC IN NATURE IF CONSUMED
THE DECARBOXYLATION PROCESS CAN MINIMIZE SPORES BUT MYCOTOXINS WHICH ARE BYPRODUCTS OF MOLDS TAKE EXTREMELY HIGH TEMPERATURE TO ELIMINATE. ADDITIONALLY, CONSUMING OR INGESTING CANNABIS HAS BETTER BIOAVAILABILITY THEREFORE MORE EFFECTIVE IN HELPING THE PATIENT. ALSO, GASTRIC AND BILE ACIDS/ENZYMES WILL BREAK DOWN/ KILL MOLDS. NOTE THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS TO THAT AS WELL.....MOLDS, BACTERIA, VIRUSES, BACTERIOPHAGES.... ETC. ARE VERY FASTIDIOUS ORGANISMS AND MUST BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. BUT MUNCH AWAY!! BETTER FOR YOU, WORKS LONGER AND BETTER. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS
 
Welcome. Interesting. My wife died of cancer, and was immunocompromised. She couldn't tolerate smoking, but did use some RSO infused baked goods. The extract was decarboxylated in the oven until CO2 stopped coming off. It did help her appetite, and she never got an infection, thank God. Would the IPA in the extraction process sterilize the extract? I also distill the IPA off the extract to recover my solvent, so it is heated to 180 degrees during distillation.
Welcome. Interesting. My wife died of cancer, and was immunocompromised. She couldn't tolerate smoking, but did use some RSO infused baked goods. The extract was decarboxylated in the oven until CO2 stopped coming off. It did help her appetite, and she never got an infection, thank God. Would the IPA in the extraction process sterilize the extract? I also distill the IPA off the extract to recover my solvent, so it is heated to 180 degrees during distillation.

HERE IS ADDITIONAL READING....WE USE MANY OF THESE PROSESSES IN BIOPHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

Cannabis Industry Journal
10 Treatment Methods to Reduce Mold in Cannabis
autoclave

As the operations manager at Los Sueños Farms, the largest outdoor cannabis farm in the country, I was tasked with the challenge of finding a yeast and mold remediation treatment method that would ensure safe and healthy cannabis for all of our customers while complying with stringent regulations.
While outdoor cannabis is not inherently moldy, outdoor farms are vulnerable to changing weather conditions. Wind transports spores, which can cause mold. Each spore is a colony forming unit if plated at a lab, even if not germinated in the final product. In other words, perfectly good cannabis can easily fail microbial testing with the presence of benign spores.
Fun Fact: one square centimeter of mold can produce over 2,065,000,000 spores.
If all of those landed on cannabis it would be enough to cause over 450 pounds of cannabis to fail testing, even if those spores remained ungerminated.
Photo credit: Steep Hill- a petri dish of mold growth from tested cannabis
It should also be known that almost every food item purchased in a store goes through some type of remediation method to be considered safe for sale. Cannabis is finally becoming a legitimized industry and we will see regulations that make cannabis production look more like food production each year.
Regulations in Colorado (as well as Nevada and Canada) require cannabis to have a total yeast and mold count (TYMC) of ≤ 10,000 colony forming units per gram. We needed a TYMC treatment method that was safe, reliable, efficient and suitable for a large-scale operation. Our main problem was the presence of fungal spores, not living, growing mold.
Below is a short list of the pros and cons of each treatment method I compiled after two years of research:
Autoclave: This is the same technology used to sterilize tattoo needles and medical equipment. Autoclave uses heat and pressure to kill living things. While extremely effective, readily available and fiscally reasonable, this method is time-consuming and cannot treat large batches. It also utilizes moisture, which increases mold risk. The final product may experience decarboxylation and a change in color, taste and smell.
Dry Heat: Placing cannabis in dry heat is a very inexpensive method that is effective at reducing mold and yeast. However, it totally ruins product unless you plan to extract it.
autoclaveAn autoclave
Image: Tom Beatty, Flickr
Gamma Ray Radiation: By applying gamma ray radiation, microbial growth is reduced in plants without affecting potency. This is a very effective, fast and scalable method that doesn’t cause terpene loss or decarboxylation. However, it uses ionizing radiation that can create new chemical compounds not present before, some of which can be cancer-causing. The Department of Homeland Security will never allow U.S. cannabis farmers to use this method, as it relies on a radioactive isotope to create the gamma rays.
Gas Treatment: (Ozone, Propylene Oxide, Ethylene Oxide, Sulfur Dioxide) Treatment with gas is inexpensive, readily available and treats the entire product. Gas treatment is time consuming and must be handled carefully, as all of these gases are toxic to humans. Ozone is challenging to scale while PPO, EO and SO2 are very scalable. Gases require special facilities to apply and it’s important to note that gases such as PPO and EO are carcinogenic. These methods introduce chemicals to cannabis and can affect the end product by reducing terpenes, aroma and flavor.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Spraying cannabis plants with a hydrogen peroxide mixture can reduce yeast and mold. However, moisture is increased, which can cause otherwise benign spores to germinate. This method only treats the surface level of the plant and is not an effective remediation treatment. It also causes extreme oxidation, burning the cannabis and removing terpenes.
Microwave: This method is readily available for small-scale use and is non-chemical based and non-ionizing. However, it causes uneven heating, burning product, which is damaging to terpenes and greatly reduces quality. This method can also result in a loss of moisture. Microwave treatment is difficult to scale and is not optimal for large cultivators.
Radio Frequency: This method is organic, non-toxic, non-ionizing and non-chemical based. It is also scalable and effective; treatment time is very fast and it treats the entire product at once. There is no decarboxylation or potency loss with radio frequency treatment. Minimal moisture loss and terpene loss may result. This method has been proven by a decade of use in the food industry and will probably become the standard in large-scale treatment facilities.
Steam Treatment: Water vapor treatment is effective in other industries, scalable, organic and readily available. This method wets cannabis, introducing further mold risk, and only treats the product surface. It also uses heat, which can cause decarboxylation, and takes a long time to implement. This is not an effective method to reduce TYMC in cannabis, even though it works very well for other agricultural products
Extraction can be an effective form of remediating contaminated cannabis
Extraction:Using supercritical gas such as butane, heptane, carbon dioxide or hexane in the cannabis extraction process is the only method of remediation approved by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Divisionand is guaranteed to kill almost everything. It’s also readily available and easy to access. However, this time-consuming method will change your final product into a concentrate instead of flower and usually constitutes a high profit loss.
UV Light: This is an inexpensive and readily available method that is limited in efficacy. UV light is only effective on certain organisms and does not work well for killing mold spores. It also only kills what the light is touching, unless ozone is captured from photolysis of oxygen near the UV lamp. It is time consuming and very difficult to scale.
After exhaustively testing and researching all treatment methods, we settled on radio frequency treatment as the best option. APEX, a radio frequency treatment machine created by Ziel, allowed us to treat 100 pounds of cannabis in an hour – a critical factor when harvesting 36,000 plants during the October harvest.

About The Author
Ketch DeGabrielle
Ketch DeGabrielle is an Industrial Designer BFA who started his career in the cannabis space by designing harvest and processing systems for Los Sueños Farms, the largest licensed outdoor farm in the country where 36,000 plants are harvested in around 4 weeks. He served as the Operations Manager there for two years. Today, Ketch owns Qloris Consulting and Bud Sorter. At Qloris, Ketch helps businesses plan and streamline their harvest processes and designs custom machinery when necessary. Bud Sorter is the industry’s first size sorting machine that grades cannabis by size. He is an amateur mycologist / fungiphile and can usually be found frolicking in the woods with a fly rod and a foraging knife when he isn’t working.
 
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