PSA: Check Your Cannabis for Mold
Spotting mold on bread or cheese is pretty easy, but on cannabis? Not so much.
Here’s everything you need to know about what to look for, whether it’s safe to smoke moldy cannabis, and how to keep your stash mold-free going forward.
Moldy cannabis usually has a grayish-white coating. If you’re not a seasoned consumer or grower, though, it can be easy to mistake trichomes for mold and vice versa.
Trichomes are those sticky, shiny crystals on the leaves and buds that give cannabis its aroma.
Unlike trichomes, which look like little hairs that almost appear to glitter, mold has a gray or white powdery appearance.
Mold also has a distinct odor to it, so your nose may notice the mold before your eyes do. Moldy weed usually has a musty or mildewy smell, or it may smell kind of like hay.
It probably won’t kill you, but it’s still not recommended.
In healthy people, smoking moldy weed isn’t likely to have a detrimental impact on your health — barring the general risks of smoking, of course.
If you smoke moldy weed, you might experience symptoms like coughing, nausea, and vomiting, which are more unpleasant than dangerous.
But if you’re allergic to mold, you could end up with inflammation of your sinuses or lungs and symptoms like:
- sinus pain
In people with weakened immune systems or lung conditions, inhaling smoke from weed that contains certain mold species can have serious health consequences.
Fungi like Aspergillus, Mucor, and Cryptococcus can cause serious and even deadly infections in the lungs, central nervous system (CNS), and the brain in people with compromised immune systems.
A UC Davis study found these and other types of potentially harmful fungi on cannabis samples bought from dispensaries and growers in Northern California.
You may be tempted to cut off the obviously moldy bits and smoke the rest, but it’s not a good idea. Life’s too short for bad bud.
If you can see mold or mildew, you’re better off tossing it. It’s not going to taste or smell good anyway, and could make you feel sick.
Storage is everything when it comes to preventing mold.
Exposing cannabis to the wrong temperature, light, humidity, and oxygen can promote the growth of mold.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Avoid the fridge or freezer
Forget what you’ve been told about storing your green in the fridge or freezer. The temperatures are too low, and the exposure to moisture can result in mold.
The ideal temperature to store cannabis is just below 77°F (25°C).
Use the right container
Glass jars with an airtight seal are the way to go if you want to keep things mold-free.
Mason jars and similar glass containers help limit the exposure to oxygen and moisture, which can prevent mold and keep your nugs fresh longer.
If you want something a little more sophisticated than a Mason jar, most dispensaries sell containers designed for this exact purpose.
Keep it in a dark, dry place
Direct sunlight and moisture are recipes for disaster when it comes to keeping cannabis fresh.
The sun’s rays can heat things up and hold in moisture. A damp environment can also cause too much moisture to build up if your container isn’t properly sealed.
Keep your container in a dark, dry cabinet or closet that doesn’t get too hot.
Mind the humidity
Cannabis is best kept at a relative humidity of 59 to 63 percent. Go any higher and you run the risk of trapping moisture and growing mold.
Adding a humidity pack to your container can help. These are little packets that contain a mix of salts and water that help regulate the humidity in your container. They’re inexpensive and last a couple of months.
Humidors made specifically for cannabis are another option if you want to get fancy and are willing to spend some extra bucks.
Like most green things, cannabis can develop mold under the right conditions. Learn what to look for and whether there's any way to salvage your bud.
How to Tell If Your Weed is Moldy?
Mold is a killer. It’s a eukaryotic micro-organism not a plant, animal, or bacteria. It’s so tiny you can’t see it until molds cluster together. Mold’s job is to eat dead organic material even if that mold is on your outdoor walls, bathroom grout—or cannabis.
It’s not enough to just trash moldy cannabis plants. Molds can show up in your prepared marijuana, drawn by moisture. Mold in your home has proven to be extremely toxic to humans. People are different, of course, so how much exposure is too much is an open question. How much worsens an allergy? How much affects asthma, lung problems, or autoimmune diseases?
Answers to these questions depend on several factors. But, we do know how to tell if your weed in moldy.
5 Signs that your weed is moldy
- If the mold has taken over, it’s easy to see. It’s the same thing you see on moldy bread or cheese, a fuzzy green, blue, or grey-white cluster on your stash. Sometimes, it is a powdery mildew on the leaves or buds.
- If you feel the plant, buds, or weed between your fingers, it should feel dry and crispy. If it is damp and spongy, it may be too risky.
- If it smells like it should, it’s okay. You want to smell that musky, earthy scent. But, moist grass smells sweet, and that means mold. Of course, you need some experience with strains to recognize one smell from another.
- If your allergies act up, you should pay attention. With or without allergies, you can expect from red-eye, mucus, or dry mouth after smoking. But, if your reaction is worse than usual, you need to see your doctor.
- If you feel chest pain, you may have a problem. Any smoker, especially first timers, will notice some burning in the lungs. But, tightness or pain the chest needs to be treated by your doctor soon.
4 Reasons to worry about moldy weed
- Mold multiplies through spores, minuscule ones that you can’t spot on a plant. So, picking mold clusters off or shaking off the powdery mildew does not get rid of the spores.
- Mold contains mycotoxins and endotoxins. Mycotoxins appear on the outside of mold spores and in the crevices and cracks of the plants. Endotoxins are released by dyeing bacteria. These toxins are bad for humans, especially with regular or intense exposure.
- Smoking moldy pot brings millions of microscopic spores and toxins into your lungs with every draw. Once in your lungs, the mold will grow in the spongy recesses of the lung tissues.
- Common molds have different effects. Each of them occurs in the environment, and people inhale them to some extent every day.
- Aspergillus may cause lung disease in animals and humans.
- Botrytis or Bud Rot appears mostly on grapes. But, it can invade cannabis patches and will destroy the plants.
- Penicillium can be beneficial. It is, after all, the source of Penicillin. But, some strains will destroy cannabis crops.
10 Ways to prevent mold on your weed
- You must store your weed carefully. If, for example, you store yours in glass jars, you must remove the lids at least once a day, and use test strips to indicate the moisture level.
- On the other hand, you cannot expose the pot to humid or moist air for any length of time. Commercially available packets will keep the weed at the correct humidity level.
- Considering your investment in marijuana, you might purchase a hygrometer like they use in cigar humidors and favor mold resistant strains.
- Baking your weed will kill most spores in mildly affected product. Scattered on a cookie sheet, the weed should dry under 200°F for 10 minutes before using it.
- Using a bong will reduce about 15% of the contamination through the water filtration process.
- Extracting the cannabinoids into concentrate with alcohol or butane at 200°F will eliminate most of the damage. Then, dabbing with the concentrate will expose it to more heat.
- If you grow your own, air circulation is your best friend. As plants grow larger, the larger leaves create more humidity and cover each other. You must have steady fresh air circulation above and below the leaves.
- Defoliate the plants as they grow, carefully removing the large leaves on each plant on a regular basis
- When you do your own harvesting, you should hang the cannabis buds upside down to dry in an area with 50% humidity and 70°F.
- Once they are dry, you cure them in storage containers at 70°F and 60-65% humidity. They’re ready when they are dry but slightly sticky.
And, if you weed is moldy?
Mold will appear at any stage in your plant’s growth. So, larger crops present a bigger challenge. If mold appears on one plant, you should remove it immediately. It can’t really be corrected. Composting it or burying it only spreads the contamination. Burning may be the option. But, moving it and transporting it also too actively only distributes the spores.
Mold targets plants in the two weeks before and after harvest. The more leaves and buds your plant produces, the more targets they provide for mold growth. So, daily inspection is necessary.
Mold can be controlled if not readily eliminated. Professional growers can vary soils, environments, and methods to correct threats to their crops. Personal use growers can stay on top of a few plants if they pay attention.
But, you cannot underestimate the risk to your crop or health by letting things go. These risks are yet another reason to trust you licensed dispensary more than your local dealer.
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