The Origins of Contaminants in Cannabis and Cannabis Products

The Origins of Contaminants in Cannabis and Cannabis Products

This is an article created by Fundacion CANNA, a Spanish non-profit organization that carries out studies and conducts research on Cannabis and its active compounds. Its main focus is on Cannabis plants and their active compounds, related studies and scientific research, especially regarding its effects on the human body and mind and regarding Cannabis use and its derivatives. Fundación CANNA has it’s own laboratory where different kind of tests are performed.
Most of us talked to our parents at one point or another about cannabis. I had the opportunity to be open with my parents about my use of cannabis relatively early on. My mother had often expressed concern over my consuming this unregulated drug substance, "How do you know what's in it? What if you get some that is spiked with angel dust or something?" was her refrain. I would always say that cannabis works just fine the way it is and that it would cost more to add other drugs to it. The truth is I couldn't really know. This was two decades before the dawn of private cannabis testing labs that now are practically innumerable in the United States and growing in many other countries as well.

By Ezra Pryor and Jahan Marcu

It turns out that my mother's concern for quality control was not unfounded. Though doping (adding other drugs to) cannabis is not unheard of, it is rare these days. What is not rare, unfortunately, is the contamination of cannabis with other substances by ignorance or by accident. These contaminants are varied in nature and their effect on the human body.

Contaminants are defined as "a polluting or poisonous substance that makes something impure." There are lots of definitions, but I like this one because it also touches on purity as well as poison. A contaminant is anything that reduces the purity of a cannabis product or poisons or pollutes the product by its presence. The word contaminant may be used to describe foreign or un-natural substances. In this article, however, I will also include components of the cannabis product with natural origins that detract from the quality or value of the product.

It is important to consider the nature of the final product when we define what makes a component of a cannabis product a contaminant or not. If we are infusing chocolate, the natural waxes in a cannabis extract cannot be considered a contaminant since chocolate is in large part composed of wax already. Chlorophyll is an example of something that is considered a contaminant in dabbable or vaporized extracts. Conversely, nobody has a problem with green buds or black hash oil (as an edible) despite the high chlorophyll content. This can be seen in the light color of most extracts destined for dabbing and the green color of whole cannabis flowers.

In general, we can divide the substances listed in this article into four categories: Natural Contaminants (such as plant chromophores and microbial contaminants), Poisons (such as heavy metals, radionuclides, and pesticides), Additives, and Combustion Products. In this article we will highlight some of the worst offenders and some solutions.

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