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By Ashley Hansen   Remediation is not a dirty word (or new technology). Yet, it has sparked new discussion on the topic of “clean” cannabis. The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) is working on a reference for the public that will include all remediation types in response to information presented at a board meeting. Cannabis community […]

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By Ashley Hansen

 

Remediation is not a dirty word (or new technology). Yet, it has sparked new discussion on the topic of “clean” cannabis. The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) is working on a reference for the public that will include all remediation types in response to information presented at a board meeting. Cannabis community members say the responsibility for educating consumers on this topic falls on both the brands and regulating bodies. 

The purpose of cannabis remediation is to “clean” dry flower of mold and other harmful contaminants before it’s packaged and sold. Local cultivators say these methods have been used in order to pass state testing regulations in Nevada since 2017. Remediation methods are also relied on by legal states in the Midwest and along the East Coast. Suehiko Ono, director of business development at Hepworth Pura (Milton, NY) and former founder and CEO of EOS Farms (Pittsfield, MA) stated in a 2022 Forbes interview that “anyone who can afford it is going with radiation.” Today, Ono says educational marketing on the topic is “still a huge issue.” There are different ways to remediate flower which is one reason why the topic is highly debated. For example, a medical patient with an immunodeficiency may only want to purchase cannabis that has been remediated in some way. Whereas a recreational user may argue remediated cannabis is disingenuous. 

The two most commonly used methods in Nevada are radiofrequency (RF) and gamma irradiation. The RF method sends waves to interact with the flower, enabling water molecules to move. This movement generates heat used to inactivate harmful microbes where water molecules are present. There are concerns that this method can affect the

color, smell and potency of the flower. Gamma irradiation sends gamma rays to interact with and pass through the flower, enabling external and internal microbes to be inactivated. This remains the recommended method because it prevents microbes from reactivating during packaging or while sitting on a dispensary shelf. When asked to describe irradiation to an average consumer, Ono stated, ”It is the same as an x-ray at the dentist. When the x-ray is off, there is nothing left over.” 

Cannabis is a new industry and not (yet) federally approved which means there have been limited studies in these areas and no long-term data on these methods is available. Cultivators that currently don’t use remediation machines say they have a high degree of control over their grow rooms. Most of these establishments also grow in no-till soil which allows the cannabis plant to fight off harmful pathogens without the use of these methods. If a testing sample fails due to mold or other harmful contaminants, the product is not remediated and therefore not packaged for sale. 

The CCB currently allows use of radiation equipment by Rad Source, Microwave RFC, XRpure and Ziel. There are approximately 24 licensed cannabis establishments with approved radiation machines. A list of these establishments was recently published online and, via email, the CCB confirmed it was provided as a result of a public records request for irradiation devices. “The CCB is working on creating a reference that will include all remediation types,” stated the email.

Cannabis community members agree that a reference will be helpful to consumers, but they also want the CCB to enforce product labeling. NCCR 12.065 covers cannabis treated with radiation but is currently not in effect. It states, “If any cannabis or cannabis product has been treated with radiation at any time, any and all packaging of the irradiated cannabis or cannabis product must include labeling that contains the following statement: ‘NOTICE: This product contains ingredients that have been treated with irradiation’ in bold lettering, along with the Radura symbol as used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” 

Cannabis companies argue that labeling decontaminated cannabis is unnecessary and misleading, because there are no health or safety issues currently associated with using these methods. Others who are against product labeling, or indifferent to it, point out that this equipment is used by organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Red Cross. Until the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis is federally legal, not all cannabis facilities or grows will be built the same. As the Vegas market evolves, the community will continue to discuss and debate not whether or not cannabis remediation is safe, but whether or not it is necessary.

 

References:
Roberts, Chris (2022). Would You Smoke ‘Nuclear Weed’? You Might Already: Why Irradiated Cannabis Is Common (And Safe). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisroberts/2022/04/30/would-you-smoke-nuclear-weed-you-might already-why-irradiated-cannabis-is-common-and-safe/?sh=62b32a105130
Cannabis Control Board Regulation 12 (2021). Cannabis treated with radiation, 12.065. https://ccb.nv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Reg-12_rev2-v082721.pdf
Hazekamp A. Evaluating the Effects of Gamma-Irradiation for Decontamination of Medicinal Cannabis. Front Pharmacol. 2016 Apr 27;7:108. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00108. PMID: 27199751; PMCID: PMC4847121
Gurpreet Singh Dhillon, Shivappa Hukkeri, Duncan Nightingale, and Jeff Callaway ACS. (2022). Evaluation of Different Techniques to Decontaminate Medical Cannabis and Their Effect on Cannabinoid Content. Agricultural Science & Technology, (6), 1126-1133. DOI: 
1021/acsagscitech.2c00231
https://radiofrequency.com/cannabis-lab-submissions-never-fail-again/
https://radsource.com/solutions/cannabis-decontamination/
https://ccb.nv.gov/faq/#laboratoryTestingSection

 

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