Microbial contamination is a concern in medicinal cannabis, especially for those whose immunity is compromised and are hence susceptible to opportunistic infections. Unfortunately, this makes up a large percentage of medical cannabis patients. Ideally, exposing cannabis to heat should kill microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi and thus make the cannabis “safe.” A study that was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology has however revealed that vaporizing cannabis does not address microbial contamination.
Vaporizing is one of the novel ways of consuming cannabis by exposing the cannabis to heat and inhaling the bioactive molecules that are present in the vapor. The study by Sopovski et al. investigated the effect of heating cannabis in commercial vaporizers on microbial populations.
The researchers obtained low and high-THC cannabis from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to perform a placebo-controlled study. The cannabis material was exposed to heat at 190 degrees celsius for 30-70 seconds, the same heating conditions in commercial vaporizers. The placebo was not exposed to any heat. The researchers found that there were no significant reductions in microbial counts when the cannabis material was heated for up to 70 seconds at 190 degrees Celsius. They concluded that vaporizing cannabis is not a “safer alternative” for consuming cannabis, as had been earlier suggested. Patients consuming cannabis in this way are at risk of microbial infections. The FDA researchers further suggested the use of pasteurization, gamma and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as safer alternatives for dealing with microbial hazards in cannabis.