Illustration by James Stanton

Illustration by James Stanton

Did Wildfires Contaminate Your Weed?

Most apparent effects might be seen in outdoor grows, with plants showing traces of ash, cinders, and mold

Even though our rainy season has finally kicked in, we canna-sseurs may still be dealing with the fallout from this summer’s wildfires.

Honestly, I was happy to put the haze out of my mind, but then I read a great article in Cannabis Business Times on the potential effects of fires on grow operations in California, and I began to wonder about the health of the crops being harvested after the fire season here in Washington. CBT spoke to representatives from testing labs across the country, and the message was clear: States susceptible to fire seasons that also have legal weed grow-ops need to develop new tests to screen for potential toxin profiles that result from exposure to fire and smoke.

The most apparent effects might be seen in outdoor grows, with plants showing traces of ash, cinders, and mold, as well as giving off a “smoky” flavor or scent. But these are all pretty obvious and can be readily identified with a thorough visual examination and a few sniffs. However, some pollutants are much harder to detect, and would be found only if a lab explicitly looks for them. For example, if a grow-op was near a farm that used pesticides and that farm caught fire, plants from the grow-op could produce false positives for those pesticides. If fire retardants were used near a grow-op and got into the water supply, they could find their way into the plants.

As bad as it may seem for outdoor grow-ops, indoor facilities may have it worse. Hydroponic systems, ceiling tiles, drywall, and other construction materials can all absorb and hold on to airborne toxins. In some cases, just wiping down the walls and flushing hydration systems may be enough for a producer to get back to normal—but in others, entire facilities may have to undergo severe renovations before they are “clear.”

Jon Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences, a Colorado-based agricultural biotech company, pointed out that it’s not only contaminants from the fires themselves that labs should be testing for, but other toxins produced from things like fire retardants and construction materials. “Are they testing for potential contaminants that might come in through the smoke,” Vaught wondered, “or do they recognize that they need to test for other contaminants, and that’s an additional contaminant that they wouldn’t normally check for?”

I had the chance to ask representatives from cannabis testing labs here in Washington if they had seen any trends or changes in the weed coming in from this latest harvest, post-fires. For the most part, many labs in this state are focused on testing cannabis for strain type and potency, so it had not even crossed their minds that toxins might need to be screened for. Washington state has a list of specific pesticides it wants cannabis tested for, but if there are toxins and contaminants in your marijuana that are not on the list, at this time state labs might not test for them.

“What I would recommend, across the industry, is a more open dialogue about these important issues not only for the industry, but for the consumers and the safety of consumers,” Vaught told CBT. “It’s so very critical, whether we’re talking about pesticides, or combustion by-products that are toxic from forest fires, or potential food additives that may or may not be approved for human consumption—all of these different issues affect the whole industry.”

More in Eat Drink Toke

Top 12 Spots for Cheese Addicts in Seattle

You might say I’m something of an Emerald City cheese expert.

The culinary thrills of the PBS favorite come to life during <em>America’s Test Kitchen</em>’s live events. Photo courtesy America’s Test Kitchen
Fall Food Events Guide

Some of the best happenings for the culinarily curious.

The Most Magical Fried Chicken in Seattle

I almost didn’t write about this place. I didn’t want to ruin the mystery of it.

Poutine Rules at Seattle’s Best Hockey Bar

After the explosion, Tim Pipes nearly threw in the towel. Then, a… Continue reading

Baked Kitchens

Eating cannabis is a millennia-old tradition and just as tasty today.

Treat or Trick?

A new ban on a variety of edibles has some cannabis producers running scared.

Did Wildfires Contaminate Your Weed?

Most apparent effects might be seen in outdoor grows, with plants showing traces of ash, cinders, and mold

Smoke Weed (And Brush Your Teeth) Every Day

Are there any other detrimental side effects of smoking weed all the damn time?

Faded For Fall Equinox

Cannabis can play a role in your seasonal celebrations.

Most Read