It was recently reveled that police investigating Michael Jackson’s death had mistaken moldy marijuana for “tar heroin” following the pop stars death. While the moldy weed played no part in the investigation or Jackson’s death, it does bring up an often overlooked problem that faces almost every marijuana user, grower or distributor: Mold.
Anyone who has smoked marijuana more than a couple times has most likely inhaled mold spores from marijuana. That may sound alarming, however its important to remember that you are likely to inhale the same or similar mold spores while taking a walk in the park. The most common type of mold, Aspergillus, occurs naturally in almost everything in nature.
Most mold spores will have little effect on people with normal immune systems. If the mold is bad enough to cause problems, effects are usually respiratory breathing problems and flu like symptoms such as coughing, diarrhea and vomiting but can be more severe in people with other health conditions and/or a poor immune systems.
Causes of mold on marijuana
Mold issues in marijuana are almost always due to moisture lock. If marijuana is packaged or cured in air-tight containers while there is still a lot of moisture in the buds, it creates a perfect environment for mold to thrive in. While most growers and distributors take extra precautions in preventing mold, some will actually add moisture to properly dried marijuana in order to artificially increases the weight to increase profits.
In researching this article, I found some people will even bury their stash in hopes of encouraging a certain type of mold that is said to increase the potency of marijuana. This trend is highly discouraged due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to isolate that specific mold strain from other mold strains that will degrade and destroy the THC (active ingredient) in marijuana.
Identifying mold on marijuana
You can identify mold by looking closely for black spots, dark green spots, white/grayish stringy matter or other unusual coloring. The mold will also noticeably effect the smell of the marijuana, turning it a more musty and unpleasant smell. Mold spores sometimes resemble the crystal looking trichomes that naturally occur on marijuana which can cause some novice users to mistake signs of mold for characteristics of higher grade marijuana. The best way to identify mold on marijuana is to view it under a black light. Mold spores will appear a distinctive green hue when put under a black light.
Preventing / Treating mold on marijuana
Mold needs at least 15% moisture to survive, so the best way to prevent mold is to keep all harvested marijuana in the ideal 10%-15% moisture content level. Growers should always allow enough time for freshly cut plants to dry in a dark ventilated area. Marijuana being cured in jars should be opened every 12 to 24 hours to allow proper air flow. Always be careful when attempting to re-hydrate over-dried buds by adding orange peels or water because it’s very easy to add too much moisture and fruit peels are an easy breeding ground for mold.
It’s always advisable to not smoke marijuana with mold, however those that are willing to take the risk are advised to bake their marijuana in a oven on 300 degrees for 15 minutes to eliminate some common forms of mold. While on the subject of baking marijuana, it is important to note that most mold is far more dangerous when ingested than inhaled, which means you should be extra careful of mold when putting marijuana into edible treats. Filtering smoke through a water pipe or bong does not prevent you from inhaling mold, although some sources say it can help reduce about 15% of the mold.
Although the exact moisture content is impossible to tell, by learning what to look for, consumers can prevent purchasing moldy marijuana and determine whether questionable buds should be smoked or thrown out. As marijuana becomes a more accepted form of medicine for seriously ill patients, mold education becomes even more important for care givers and government regulators to insure patients are protected due to them being more susceptible to the effects of mold than average recreational users.
photo by: Bistrosavage