Tis the season for microbial testing
By: Zacariah L. Hildenbrand, Ph.D.
Tis the season for microbial testing:
While characterizing cannabinoid and terpene profiles is of paramount importance to the classification and targeted use of cannabis medicine, the summer months in Arizona have brought forth another growing concern to the local cannabis market: microbial contaminants. Given the elevated temperatures, extreme weather events, and notable fluctuations in humidity, the dynamic nature of these environmental factors can have a significant impact on the ability for cultivators to maintain a consistent and ideal micro-environment within their indoor facilities. As such, cultivation facilities can very quickly, and inconspicuously, provide an optimal environment for the growth and proliferation of bacteria and fungi. While the undesirable presence of microbials in medical cannabis can certainly affect the taste, smell, and overall patient experience; of more pertinent concern are the relative impacts on patient safety and efficacy of their cannabis therapy. For instance, patients with comprised immune systems or sensitivities to xenobiotic (foreign to the human body) mat
ter are the most susceptible to negative impacts from microbially-contaminated cannabis. In such cases, a single bad experience could significantly alter the course of subsequent cannabis therapies, which is ultimately not in the best interest of the patient.
While the Arizona cannabis market is currently devoid of regulatory guidelines that stipulate microbial levels that would be considered safe, I believe that total microbial levels (total bacteria, fungi, and yeasts) below 10,000 colony-forming-units (cfu) per gram of cannabis flower, should classify that product as ‘safe for consumption’. There is noted discrepancies among other states’ regulations when it comes to micro biological testing of cannabis flower; some allow as high as 100,000 cfu (AHPA Standard) where as others focus on specific harmful species of microbial pathogens and not on total “colony forming unit” counts. Certainly the advanced screening for specific virulent species is warranted when characterizing the microbial aspect of product safety; however, these advanced analyses are currently on the horizon with the adoption of innovative gene expression assays.
Hopefully favorable changes in cannabis legislation in November will pave the way for mandatory microbial testing in the future. Such reform would empower us as an emerging industry to further certify product quality and ensure patient safety.
Visit C4 Labs @ http://www.c4lab.com for more information on cannabis testing.