A recent report in Denver Westword magazine highlighted efforts by the Denver Department of Health and Environment to “learn more about potential yeast and mold issues with marijuana”. Needless to say, the results of 25 random dispensary tests were less than favorable. Most notably, “twenty listed at least one or more hold and quarantine orders for cannabis flower, shake, or pre-rolled joints”. Failure rate: 80%. While decidedly alarming, this surely isn’t a fluke. So, why all the mold?
The Green Wave
Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, the state has gone through several stages of growth that can only be described as monumental. Consequently, the economic boom from the “green wave” can be seen in many aspects. Denver, the surrounding areas, and beyond are all experiencing major changes. Drastic updates in infrastructure (ie. the expansion of major highways) and increased construction of housing and commercial buildings are just two of the many changes legal cannabis has yielded. Former Denver residents and frequent visitors often marvel at just how much the city and its outskirts have grown in such a short time; with areas such as Five Points and Rino (River North Art District) becoming almost unrecognizable.
A Cannabis Case Study
Of course, with increased growth comes increased demand. When I moved here back in 2016 to learn about indoor/outdoor cannabis cultivation, I naturally also wanted to check out the dispensary circuit, which, at first glance was admittedly overwhelming, even back then. Fast-forward a few years to 2019, and it seems the number of Denver dispensaries has tripled since I’ve been here. A self-proclaimed “true believer in the healing powers of cannabis”, I have maintained my search for the best flower, concentrates, edibles, and accessories on the market.
Throughout these past years, I’ve come to know “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” of med/rec dispensaries — and, without getting too specific and naming any names, I can attest to the unfortunate ‘mold-filled truth’. From the taste to the feeling you get when you smoke it, old, moldy weed may be able to fool the novice, but for those of us that have more than a few years in the game, puffing obviously inferior medicine is just not an option.
Why Is There Mold in My Cannabis?
A prevalent business model for many dispensaries throughout the country is to maximize profit by utilizing all available parts of the plant. When wholesale growers make their drops, dispensaries cherry-pick all the best, trichome-rich kolas and price them accordingly, with smaller “popcorn-sized” buds being delegated to the discount bin on the bottom shelf. Furthermore, shake that doesn’t make the cut is then combined and sold as pre-rolls (usually at discount prices). But, why am I getting such a great deal, you may ask? Simple: you’re being sold old, moldy cannabis. It’s therefore no surprise to me that this report issued an 80% fail rate on plant matter tested.
To play the Devil’s Advocate, perhaps another reason for such an alarming failure rate is that the technology used is not yet advanced enough to properly assess cannabis flower. The legal marijuana industry (compared to many others) is a relatively new industry, and therefore it’s understandable that growing pains are to be expected. Perhaps even another reason is that the cannabis isn’t cured properly, and therefore contains unacceptable levels of moisture upon being packaged and leaving the premises.
How Can I Avoid Moldy Flower?
There are few things worse than knowingly putting harmful substances into our bodies. The best thing you can do to avoid moldy, toxic cannabis is to be extremely careful and vigilant regarding where you shop. Before purchasing anything from any dispensary be sure to do some research into their practices, their wholesalers, and their general attitude towards providing safe and healthy medicine to the public.
Another rule of thumb: If something smells/tastes bad, it usually is. If after taking a few puffs you feel something is off, discontinue use immediately. Be sure to mark down what cultivar (strain) you were smoking and save the packaging so that you may be able to return the product to the dispensary. Holding your local dispensary accountable for the integrity of their products is your right as a consumer, and you should never be hesitant to ensure proper self-care.
If you’re lucky enough to know a wholesale grow-op, take advantage! And, if all else fails: Grow your own!
Want to learn more about cannabis testing and the vaping epidemic? Listen to our CEO John Shute’s recent podcast on Anchor FM here: