LA Weekly
February 14, 2017
By: Dennis Romero
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marijuana mold bacteria stud uc davis weed cannabis tanjila ahmedTanjila Ahmed/Flickr

California researchers who tested marijuana sold in Northern California found multiple bacterial and fungal pathogens that can cause serious infections. The study was published this month in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

The mold and bacteria was so widespread and potentially dangerous that the UC Davis academics concluded that they cannot recommend smoking raw or dried weed. "We cannot recommend inhaling it," says George Thompson III, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the university who helped conduct the cannabis research.

The findings might also apply to indoor, hydroponic marijuana popular at Southern California collectives, according to Thompson. Using pot in baked goods such as brownies might be "theoretically" safer because the products could be heated enough to kill bacteria and fungus, he says.

Asked if concentrates such as wax, honey oil, dabs and shatter would be safe because heat is involved in the production process of "butane extraction," Thompson says he isn't sure.

The key finding of the research is that patients with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV or cancer, should avoid smoking raw and dried pot. Though Thompson told the Sacramento Bee that “for the vast majority of cannabis users, this is not of great concern,” he stresses that there really isn't a safe way to smoke marijuana buds, even for those who are healthy.

He says it's possible that filters used with tobacco cigarettes could help with marijuana: Tobacco and all natural plant products have these kinds of bacterial and fungal issues. Irradiated marijuana, though unappealing, also could be an answer, he adds.

Researchers sampled weed samples from Northern California dispensaries and found they tested positive for the fungi Cryptococcus, Mucor and Aspergillus, and for the bacteria E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii. The academics said these can lead to serious and lethal illness, noting that smoking the mold and bacteria can embed them directly where they can do the most damage — the lungs.

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