Acing the CoA: Remediation for Contaminated Cannabis Crops

by | Nov 25, 2019

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

Although there are currently no federal regulations within the cannabis industry, there are independent tests available across the nation, and in state-sanctioned labs in legal states. Packaging rules dictate that all products must be stored in childproof containers and all merchandise must be tested by one of the approved labs, and include a Certificate of Analysis, or CoA, along with the results.

Although state regulations are strictly enforced, cannabis and hemp cultivators can expect to see federal enforcement of regulations coming soon.

Why Regulations Matter

When growing most crops, whether that be corn, berries, or hemp, cultivators must worry about key risk factors that impact the fate of every harvest. These factors include fungus, bacteria, pesticide residue, mold, mildew, and other substances that are unfit for human consumption.

California requires flower to go through testing to reveal the cannabinoid profile and the moisture percentage in addition to microbiological and pesticide residue screenings. Oil products need all the same tests except for their moisture percentage, and all oil needs to go through a residual solvent screen.

For those growing hemp or cannabis, these regulations mean their product cannot contain certain levels of pesticides or microorganisms, such as mildew or bacteria. If a crop does develop microbes, then it must be processed into an isolate, eliminating the contaminants within the crude, or it must be decontaminated and remediated.

The two leading methods of remediation are chemical washing and radiation.

thc remediation

Chemical Decontamination and Remediation

An excellent chemical remediation option is TheBOX offered by GreenBroz Inc. This device was designed in conjunction with the man who patented a method of sterilizing human transplant tissue, and the machine works by letting reactive oxygen paper penetrate the entire product with no byproducts other than oxygen and water. This device allows products to pass the stringent Californian requirements, removing all bioindicators and DNA from the product.

With other chemical processes, one risk cultivators must be aware of is that chemical remediation often either destroys too much of the biomass, deleting terpenes which are a desired part of the product or not effectively treating enough of the biomass, allowing contaminants to survive. In addition to this, handling chemicals requires a facility that can safely contain, manage, and dispose of chemical wastes.

Willow Industries also offers remediation solutions. The WillowPure system uses the same technology already used in the agriculture, food, and plant markets: ozone cleaning technology. This technology turns oxygen into ozone in a closed environment and then uses the gas to degrade microbial contamination. In total, this process takes ten minutes, and it is a simple plug-and-play system.

Radiation Decontamination and Remediation

For radiation-based remediation and decontamination, issues include relying on radiation, which is a controversial method due to the holistic attitude of the cannabis community at large and problems with regulation. Gamma-ray technology is capable of destroying the DNA of contaminants such as mold and mildew, preventing them from breeding, but it is a federally controlled technology due to the possibility of terrorists using gamma rays.

Rad Source Technologies is a leader in the field of radiation remediation, and they offer machines that utilize X-Ray technology to decontaminate flower. Slightly less powerful than gamma, Rad Source products are not limited by the same regulations as gamma technologies. After treatment, the cannabis undergoes no physical change, and test results prove there is no change to the cannabinoids or terpenes using this method.

Radient Technologies Inc. is a Canadian company using extraction methods paired with its patented microwave technologies. Using their experience with other industries ranging from pharmaceuticals, foods, cosmetics, and more, Radient is a company with a wealth of information on helping products meet ethical standards. Their methods also make sure to preserve the terpenes of a crop.

Understanding Phytoremediation

An issue that is especially crucial for those who are growing or plan to grow outdoor hemp in large quantities is phytoremediation. This process is an amazing part of hemp’s natural growth as it absorbs toxins and metals from the soil, effectively cleaning wherever it is planted. Planting hemp is an excellent way to clean up land affected by the closure of mines, over-farming, illegal dumping, floods, manufacturing, and more, but this hemp is not safe to consume.

Clean soil is the only way to produce clean hemp, as it will directly reflect the quality of the soil in which it is planted. Extractions from contaminated hemp concentrate the toxins as well as cannabinoids, so without chromatography or distillation, these crops are virtually useless. There is little or no way to remediate hemp from such contaminants, so while mold and mildew can be addressed by the methods discussed above, hemp crops must be well-planned. Farmers should test their soil before planting their fields and be aware of the levels of contaminants in their crops.