How to identify and avoid buying moldy weed
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- What is mold?
- What happens if you smoke moldy weed?
- How to check for moldy weed
- How to keep your cannabis mold-free
Mold is never a welcome sight. Not in bread or cheese, and certainly not in your cannabis. Moldy weed is not only disgusting, it’s dangerous. Consuming mold-infested weed can have some serious adverse effects. But how do you know if your bud’s been infected?
Nearly every legal state has some sort of microbial lab testing requirement for regulated cannabis sales. These tests check for mold and mildew in batches of marijuana. However, even legal markets have seen their share of moldy cannabis over the years.
Read on to learn how to identify and avoid buying moldy weed and how to store weed so it doesn’t get moldy.
What is mold?
Mold is a catchall term for fungus that reproduces via lightweight, airborne spores. Humans inhale or ingest minuscule amounts of mold every day. It is typically harmless in small quantities since a healthy immune system can successfully prevent any damage.
Mold found on marijuana buds, or flower, is the same kind that grows on other plants. Botrytis (responsible for bud rot ), Mucor, Cladosporium, Rhizopus, and Penicillium (the mold responsible for penicillin) are the most common. Mold thrives in humid or moist environments that lack proper air ventilation.
Mold found on marijuana buds, or flower, is the same kind that grows on other plants. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In cannabis mold most often develops when the bud isn’t dried correctly, though it can form in earlier stages of cultivation, such as in a too-humid grow room. Improperly dried weed stored in an airtight container for curing creates an ideal breeding ground for mold.
Mold spores are tricky to eliminate. They can survive the intense heat of a lighter when smoking a hit and they don’t burn off in the oven when weed is decarbed. Some molds produce mycotoxins too, which can be carcinogenic.
What happens if you smoke moldy weed?
When you smoke moldy weed, you inhale the fungus directly into your lungs. Those with compromised immune systems are at risk of developing a lung infection. Smoking moldy weed is also dangerous for those with allergies to mold-based antibiotics such as penicillin.
A study published in “ Clinical Microbiology and Infection” 2017 found molds such as Aspergillus, Mucor, and other potentially harmful fungi in cannabis samples procured from northern California dispensaries. By smoking moldy weed medical marijuana patients risk fungal infections and other problems.
The bottom line is moldy weed cannot be made fit for use once contaminated. Always throw away moldy weed, even if your risk for infection is low.
How to check for moldy weed
Thankfully, there are several ways to determine if your flower is mold-free.
Use the naked eye method
Eyeballing your weed is by far the easiest way to check for mold.
Healthy cannabis should be covered in spindly, glittering trichomes. Trichomes are sparkly glands with tiny hairs that appear almost crystalline in structure, separated by distinct trichome nodules with space in between them.
These are significant signs to keep in mind as you visually examine your bud.
Some mold looks like cobwebs in the bud, leaving behind a cotton candy-like webbing that’s gray or white in appearance. This could also be caused by spider mites, but you don’t want to smoke bug-infested weed either.
Another type of mold looks suspiciously like kief but is far from the real thing. Powdery mildew is a form of fungus that leaves a gray or white powder-like appearance. It is usually dull and muted in color, and looks like dust compared to the sparkle of trichomes or kief.
Other mold signs are dark spots, gray or yellow fuzz, or a slimy residue. If you find mildew in your marijuana, quickly dispose of it and check the facility or container where it was stored to make sure it hasn’t spread to other buds.
Use your nose
The countless terpene combinations in cannabis present a wide array of aromas, from dank to exotic fruit to skunk. Moldy weed, however, has a very distinct and unpleasant aroma. Moldy marijuana smells like human sweat, urine, or musty hay, all of which are typically repulsive to the human nose. A quick whiff should tell you whether your weed’s been infected with mildew.
Moldy weed has a very distinct and unpleasant aroma. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Sniffing isn’t foolproof, however. Some people are more sensitive to cannabis’ aromatic nuances than others, and some users who are allergic to mold may have a reaction if they sniff too closely. And some molds don’t produce a smell, especially infestations that have only just taken root.
Use tools to check for mold
Consumers can also detect mold in their weed using low-powered microscopes, many of which are cheaply available online. Under a lens, mold produces filaments that look nothing like bubbly trichomes. If it doesn’t look like weed, it might be mold.
Black lights also can help reveal mold spores in your bud. Most mold glows an eerie green when illuminated by a black light, making it easier to identify.
Review brand websites and media for recalls
The best way to protect yourself from smoking moldy bud is to purchase lab-tested cannabis from a licensed dispensary. However, the legal marijuana market is expanding more rapidly than testing facilities and regulations can keep up with. And where legal restrictions still exist, illicitly produced marijuana products can still contain residual pesticides, fungicides, and microbial substances.
Keep an eye on local media, brand websites, and state and city websites for recalls of particular batches of products to help you discover unfit bud.
How to keep your cannabis mold-free
Storage is of the utmost importance when it comes to keeping your bud free from mold. Marijuana exposed to improper temperature, light, humidity, and air risks mold development, but there are things you can do to extend your weed’s shelf life and health.
Storage is of the utmost importance when it comes to keeping your bud free from mold. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
First, make sure your weed is properly dried and cured. Most professional cultivators should do this right, but when growing your own bud, it’s essential to allow the flowers to dry correctly . The process can take up to seven days and should be done with care in proper environmental conditions. Correctly dried weed will cure successfully, maintaining the perfect balance between dry enough to smoke and moist enough to preserve the terpenes and trichomes. .
Store your bud in a cool, dry place but not in the freezer or refrigerator. It’s too cold, and the exposure to moisture is potentially mold-inducing. The ideal storage temperature for your flower is just below 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep buds in airtight containers made of dark-colored glass. Mason jars and the like limit air and humidity exposure that could encourage mold development. Many dispensaries sell containers precisely for this purpose.
Finally, cannabis requires precise humidity levels to maintain its dry-but-not-too-dry, smokeable goodness . The humidity in your storage jars should stay between 59% and 63% to keep things perfect. You can buy disposable humidity packs, such as Boveda packs, to add to your jars.
How to identify and avoid buying moldy weed Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is mold? What happens if you smoke moldy weed? How to
Stoner Alert: Smoking Moldy Cannabis
“Damn you! Damn you, you filthy mold!” You don’t want to scream this barechested on your knees before a cannabis garden ravaged by mold. Weed mold is no joke for stoners and this article just might save your life one terrible day.
RED ALERT: BUD MOLD
We don’t mean to be alarmist, but in our opinion, moldy weed is public enemy #1. Of all the pests, plagues, rotten bad luck and scourges of Mother Nature, that can possibly strike a marijuana garden, it’s cannabis mold, that’s the most heartbreaking and toxic threat to the ordinary decent stoner.
Moldy weed is not just a horrible excuse for a stash, it’s actually toxic waste and you should treat it as such. If you have the misfortune to consume moldy weed, regardless of whether you eat it, smoke it, or vape it, you are consuming thousands, possibly tens of thousands of nasty microbial spores.
Best case scenario is the unpleasant taste puts you off consuming much and you toss the rest of the contaminated weed stash in the trash, post-haste, without any ill effects.
Worst case scenario is you wind up hospitalised with a serious lung infection and your only frequent visitor is a slimy anti-marijuana lobbyist intent on getting the rights to the story of the first recorded cannabis death in history. Even if she/he must finish the job themselves, probably with a pillow during the brief interval of nurse shift change.
HOW TO DETECT A MOLDY WEED WHEN YOU’RE BUYING
If you happen to be purchasing your stash from a reputable cannabis club, coffee shop or your marijuana dispensary, then you really shouldn’t have to worry about moldy weed. But unfortunately, you do, because mold does not discriminate between amateurs and professionals, all it requires is optimal conditions, even post harvest.
A botched curing job or improper storage by the cannabis retailer can turn a Kilner jar full of weed into a furry mess of fungus. Wet weed is a breeding ground for fungus and an invitation for mold.
Even after a slow and careful drying, ideally, in simple brown paper bags, curing is the final step and too often where it all goes terribly wrong.
Another unpleasant characteristic of moldy weed is its mildew-like smell. Sometimes it can be more like hay, but something is always off with the scent of moldy bud. It pays to give your potential stash a whiff as well as the initial eyeball inspection.
Most high-end cannabis retail operators are not too keen on the customers getting overly touchy feely with the weed menu.
Only and we really mean only if it’s kosher with the budtender, it’s best to sample a spliff or a pipe hit, providing a full hands-on touch and taste test is permissible. If you get the green light, always go for it, the best hits are free hits anyway.
HOW TO DETECT MOLDY WEED WHEN YOU’RE GROWING
We have seen too many YouTube videos of growers stuffing untrimmed or minimally trimmed freshly harvested plant material directly into glass jars. This is a huge mistake and definitely not to be imitated. Well manicured bud is also less susceptible to mold as stems and leaves can retain a lot of moisture.
Essentially humidity is the harvester’s enemy, but also a necessary evil, because too low relative humidity leads to crumbly, overdry nuggs, that are probably mold free. Although they won’t be quite as tasty as they could have been if the RH had been kept in the sweet spots (30-50% for drying and 55-65% for curing).
Moldy weed will usually display a white-grey candyfloss-like fungal growth covering the exterior of buds or alternatively if the stem has rot a trophy cola literally from the inside out, giving you a disgusting surprise when you break her open. Molds can come in all kinds of colours and the worst fungal infestations can turn buds into brownish sludge.
Cannabis cultivators can encounter bud mold in the garden at any stage and it is usually due to a combination of problems in the grow show. Leaves and stems with early warning signs of mold cannot be ignored. A foul rotting and/or mildew-like smell will be noticeable.
Growers are advised to invest in a pocket microscope. They are not only handy for zooming in on resin, but a great way to detect pathogens being hosted by your cannabis plants. It might make for a horrific sight, but you can’t even begin to fight an unseen enemy. Early diagnosis gives the grower a fighting chance to save the cannabis garden.
Removal of infected plants is a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of the ganja crop. Patient zero has got to go if a full blown mold pandemic is to be averted. Maintaining optimal environmental conditions and not overwatering or otherwise stressing plants is the best preventative remedy.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF MOLDY WEED FOR GANJAPRENEURS, GROWERS, & STONERS
Just one mold-plagued plant has the potential to contaminate your entire grow op. Absolutely everything from the rest of your plants to the growing medium and containers. If you’re growing indoors, the grow room or grow tent will require a thorough cleaning to ensure no spores survive to infest the next crop.
It’s a nightmare scenario, you can try to fight with various anti-mold agents, but the plant casualty rate will be unacceptably high in any case. Moldy weed is a threat the diligent cannabis cultivator must watch out for at every stage from seed to spliff.
Moldy weed is garbage and no stoner should dare to knowingly consume it in any form. Equally, no cultivator or ganjapreneur should knowingly trade in moldy weed. 100% guaranteed reputation wrecker.
Stoners need to avoid polluted stash at all costs and by performing a few routine inspections of weed you can at least confirm if it’s clean or not before you part with your cash.
Of course, we recommend you grow your own fine organic herb, adding some liquid silica to toughen plants up and always use aerated, well draining premium quality substrate.
Mold is the highest level threat to a fine weed stash. Moldy weed is not stash, it's trash and can even be a health hazard. Lets talk about contamination.