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Spotting Contaminated Cannabis: How to Identify and Understand Potential Risks

Medical Marijuana Card

Sadly, the majority of the cannabis you purchase is tainted in some manner. It probably contains ingredients you don’t want to eat, whether the product is legal or not. All are dangerous in some way, and some even pose a threat to life. You need a medical marijuana card in order to buy marijuana legally in Lancaster. If you don’t already have a valid medical card, you can apply for your MMJ card online from the comfort of your home by completing a short form on our website.

This article examines the various forms of cannabis contamination and discusses your options for taking action.

What Constitutes Contaminated Marijuana?

Marijuana that contains anything other than what naturally exists on and in the cannabis plant is known as contaminated marijuana. The term “contamination” frequently conjures images of extremely harmful substances or grave illnesses, but contaminated cannabis could just be dusty cannabis. However, it’s also possible that the bud has unintentionally or purposely come into contact with something more sinister.

Poor cultivation, processing, and storage methods are frequently the cause of contaminated cannabis, but it can also occasionally arise from people attempting to make their plant appear heavier, stronger, or more glossy than it actually is. Furthermore, it could be the outcome of interference from another entity, like a type of fungus.

Making decisions about what to do is made easier when certain types of contamination are visible. However, some varieties—among the most hazardous—elude detection and may need to be identified through laboratory testing.


Are Contaminated Marijuana Products Harmful?

That’s possible. Contamination will always lower the quality of cannabis, at the very least, and even the mildest contaminants can cause some discomfort and danger if ingested in large amounts.

Other contaminants can be extremely dangerous and in rare cases even fatal. Examples of these contaminants are toxic chemicals and fungal spores. Furthermore, a lot of pollutants have a high carcinogenic potential. Furthermore, even though certain cannabis consumption practices—such as smoking—are inherently carcinogenic, it still makes sense to reduce the risks as much as possible.

It has even been demonstrated that endocrine disruptor-contaminated cannabis can affect fertility. Lastly, some cannabis is adulterated with opioids or synthetic THC to give the impression that it is extremely potent. These substances are highly addictive and can be very potent with devastating side effects.

Therefore, it is best for you to consume cannabis that hasn’t come into contact with anything. Although the most common outcome of contamination is probably just a sore chest, the risk is too great and the potential consequences could be far worse. Additionally, it is advisable that you speak with a medical marijuanas doctor if you are new to using marijuana products for medicinal purposes. They can provide you with guidance on safe marijuana usage practices and state laws that will protect you from legal ramifications. 

Understanding the Factors Behind Cannabis Contamination

To some extent, you can prevent cannabis contamination by being aware of its causes. Knowledge truly is power, whether it’s preventing contamination in your own grow operation or preventing consuming tainted cannabis elsewhere!

Fungal Infection

Fungal infections can occur in cannabis buds during both the growing and drying/curing phases. The bud becomes useless if the fungal growth spreads out to the point where it is visible. You might, however, unintentionally consume it if the growth is still small and not immediately noticeable.

It’s vital to remember that vaping cannabis infected with fungal spores has a far higher risk of injury than smoking it. According to one study, vaping fungal spores increases the risk of developing fungal pneumonia, even at low concentrations. Thus, exercise extra caution to avoid contamination if you vape cannabis flower.

  • Powdery mildew: As the name implies, powdery mildew is a group of fungi that can grow on cannabis flowers and produce a covering that resembles powder. There is a chance that if you inhale a lot of these spores, mold balls could form in your lungs and need to be removed surgically.

  • Botrytis: You’ve probably seen botrytis, also referred to as gray mold, which is a very prevalent fungus that typically grows on decaying fruit and vegetables. Although this mold usually poses little risk, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to it.

  • Aspergillus: Aspergillus, a mold that produces mycotoxin, is rare in healthy individuals but can cause aspergillosis in those who already have lung disorders. Mycotoxins, which can cause both acute and chronic illnesses when inhaled, are present in it. Additionally, aflatoxins—which are mutagens and carcinogens—are present.

  • Penicillium: This common mold frequently causes allergic reactions in humans, which resemble hay fever symptoms.

Bacterial Infection

Bacteria are another factor contributing to organic cannabis infections, in addition to mold. Bacteria don’t pose the same risks as fungi because they don’t produce spores and are frequently destroyed by smoking. Nevertheless, handling and ingesting contaminated cannabis can still spread bacteria to your mouth through routes other than inhalation, making it potentially dangerous.

  • Salmonella: Salmonella is a well-known bacteria that frequently contaminates food and can result in food poisoning ranging from mild to severe. It can also survive in cannabis, and handling contaminated cannabis and then touching your mouth or food afterwards could have the same consequences.

  • Enterobacter: If left untreated, these bacteria can lead to respiratory infections that can be fatal. There is always a chance that you could inhale live bacteria and become infected if you smoke a joint that has contaminated cannabis.

  • Streptococcus: Antibiotics are necessary to treat infections caused by this common bacteria. Mild to severe symptoms are possible.

  • Klebsiella: This bacteria is responsible for about 10% of hospital pneumonia cases and can cause lung and gastrointestinal infections. Either ingestion or inhalation poses a risk.

Heavy Metals

There are heavy metals in all of nature. They are usually safe at low concentrations, but can be lethal at high ones. Over the course of a cannabis plant’s life, heavy metals from certain fertilizers build up and can be hazardous when harvested.

  • Cadmium: This chemical is carcinogenic and can weaken bones and damage kidneys, among other things. It is a very harmful toxin that is frequently found in smoke.

  • Arsenic: The notorious heavy metal band, arsenic. Vomiting, watery diarrhea with blood, encephalopathy, stomach pain, and even death are signs of arsenic poisoning.

  • Lead: There are many unpleasant symptoms associated with lead poisoning, such as headaches, constipation, irritability, memory loss, infertility, and tingling in the hands and feet. Additionally, it can result in severe and irreversible mental disability, which accounts for 10% of mental disability with an unknown cause.


Pesticides are widely used in horticulture and agriculture, including the legal and illicit cannabis industries. These products frequently stay on cannabis flowers until users consume them, which presents a number of risks. According to one study, pesticides were present in 84% of Washington’s legal products.

In addition to being frequently carcinogenic, pesticides are neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors.

  • Carbaryl: Carbaryl is a common insecticide that is considered carcinogenic and extremely toxic. Consuming it or smoking or vaping it is risky.

  • Permethrin: For certain people, this pesticide may be extremely dangerous because it can trigger allergic reactions in the skin and lungs.

  • Propargite: It can cause extreme irritation to the mouth, nose, and eyes, but at least in known quantities, it is not thought to pose a serious risk to humans.

Dirt and Debris

During the processes of cultivation, desiccation, transport, or preservation, cannabis buds may accumulate particulates. Although this type of contamination is frequently the least harmful, it can still irritate many people’s lungs and trigger allergic reactions in some.

  • Dust and dirt: Since cannabis is extremely sticky, it will absorb some dust and dirt if it is handled and stored improperly. This cannot be avoided in small amounts, but it ought to be kept to a minimum.

  • Insect frass: The term “fruss” refers to the droppings of insects. While marijuana grown outdoors most likely contains more frass, indoor marijuana should contain almost none. Although it’s unclear if it’s dangerous, you probably don’t want to find out.

  • Cobwebs and spider mite silk: Both cobwebs and spider mite silk have the potential to cover cannabis plants. This shouldn’t be harmful in small doses, but too much of it could irritate the lungs or trigger an allergic reaction. Before transferring on, growers should remove any apparent cobwebs or “silk” from their buds.

  • Bird droppings: If a plant is growing outside, birds may poop on it. It’s best to stay away from smoking cannabis buds that have been ruined by birds, though the health risks are unknown. Sellers who sell you weed that has bird droppings on it are indolent!

  • Dead and live insects: Insects, either dead or alive, may also be present in cannabis flowers. Again, these probably don’t hurt you, but it could be unsettling to find creatures scuttling around your bud.

  • Insect eggs: Similarly, your flowers may contain insect eggs. Again, these are probably not harmful, but they could be uncomfortable.

Laced With Drugs

Some illegal cannabis vendors will mix other drugs into their flowers or spray them on them. This indicates that the cannabis flowers (apart from naturally occurring cannabinoids) contain active drugs. They typically do this to exaggerate the perceived potency of their cannabis.

It’s common practice to use synthetic cannabinoids, which carries significant risks. In the United States, there has been a recent trend of fentanyl-laced cannabis. Compared to synthetic cannabinoids, this is even more dangerous because it is an extremely potent opioid that can lead to overdose and death in small amounts.

Indications of Contaminated Cannabis

Perhaps you’re wondering, “What does contaminated weed look like?”

The worst kinds of contamination, however, frequently go undetected and need to be tested in a lab. However, some are, and you can use your nose and eyes to recognize them.

Easily Recognizable Signs of Contaminated Cannabis

Check out these glaring indicators that your cannabis is tainted. The list that follows will indicate whether or not a particular type of contamination can be eliminated.

  • Frass: It’s dirty if you see tiny insect droppings, either light or dark brown in color. However, you can clean it!

  • Dust and dirt: you should be able to see it and be able to clean it if it is dusty or dirty.

  • Fungal filaments: Fungal filaments will appear thin and most likely dusty. They may be in great abundance and are very fine. This cannabis should not be consumed by you.

  • Bacterial necrosis: If a portion of the bud appears wet, rotting, gray, black, or brown, it is most likely being eaten by bacteria and needs to be thrown out.

  • Wet smell: If it smells wet, it’s probably fungus-contaminated and needs to be thrown away.

  • Dry/chalky texture: Some molds have a covering or texture that is dust-like and dry and chalky. It is best to dispose of this weed as it cannot be cleaned.

  • Oil and hard black ash residue: Should you discover any hard black ash or oil residue on your cannabis, it is best to dispose of it.

  • Sandy/powdery residue in packaging: Packaging that has sand or powder residue should be thrown away because there could be a number of reasons for it and cleaning might not be effective.

Hidden Indicators of Contaminated Cannabis

The majority of other pollutants, particularly chemical ones, are invisible to the human senses. They therefore need specialized testing, frequently in a lab. These tests, aside from drug testing, are probably not something you can perform at home.

Here are some examples of various contamination testing techniques:

  • Liquid chromatography: Pesticides
  • Gas chromatography: Pesticides
  • Inductively coupled plasma instrumentation: Heavy metals
  • Drug testing

Tips for Steering Clear of Contaminated Cannabis

It is possible to prevent or lessen the likelihood of ingesting tainted cannabis. But, you can never be positive unless you cultivate it yourself. Here are a few pointers.

  • Shop at respectable coffee shops and dispensaries: You can tell that other flowers from the same batch are “clean” if you can find evidence of batch testing. Find out from the employees of the business what suppliers they use and who they buy from. Legally purchased marijuana does not guarantee that it is uncontaminated.

  • Grow your own herb: How can one prevent contamination the best? Develop your own! In this manner, you maintain control and are aware of every ingredient that goes into and onto your cannabis.

  • Avoid street dealers: Unless they cultivate their own marijuana, street vendors seldom know what’s in or on their weed. Everything will be OK if you purchase from a reliable vendor who grows their own. In any other case, tainted cannabis floods the black market.

  • Conduct visual inspections: You should visually inspect any cannabis you purchase, even though it’s not a guarantee. While it won’t protect you from everything, this can assist you in recognizing some of the more evident symptoms.

How to Handle Contaminated Cannabis

Although certain types of contamination can be removed from your buds, it’s advisable to simply throw away any buds you believe to be contaminated and obtain new ones. Put your health at danger!

However, if you do wish to use it, you should make an effort to use safety precautions and minimize any harm.

  • Wash your bud: Cleaning your bud can help remove dirt and debris at the very least.

  • Use water pipes: Research indicates that certain contaminants may be captured by water filtration. The science supporting this, though, is questionable.

  • Irradiate cannabis: This technique, which also works to clean surgical equipment, eradicates bacteria and mold from cannabis. Nonetheless, most people are probably unable to achieve an irradiating bud.

Contaminated Cannabis: A Possible Threat to Health

Weed that is tainted is not uncommon. It’s possible that the majority of marijuana is tainted in some way. All sources of pollution carry some risk, but substances like chemicals, medications, mold, and bacteria should be avoided in particular because they can have major negative effects on health.

It’s best to throw away your marijuana if you believe it to be contaminated. It is better not to get stoned than to get really sick, so take it easy and don’t smoke.