28 Jul 2010, written by Kym 2 Comments
Tucked into marijuana buds, mold spores, spider mites and a host of other evils cause problems for both the grower and the smoker. Pesticides and other chemicals applied to the cannabis only add to health concerns.. Because of the illegal nature of the industry, medical marijuana users inhale every particle of their medicine hoping that their buds hold health not harm but they can’t be sure. Tales trickle through the hills of growers hiding problems with their pot in order to sell it.
Medical dispensaries are attempting to answer their patients’ questions and concerns about their medicine with scientific precision. One, located in Oakland, Harborside Health Center, now has lab testing and a certification process. The tests allow the dispensary owner to ensure that molds do not make it to the consumer. The tests also provide a snapshot of the “stoniness” of the pot which allows the consumer to choose which buds will work best for their illness and, let’s face it, allow some buyers to choose which will get them highest.
Is it mold free? According to Harborside director, Stephen DeAngelo, mold spores occur in about 5 % of the marijuana. Lab tests allow the dispensary to assure their clients that smoking their product will not include smoking aspergillus [mold]. For an immune compromised patient, that could cause death.
Is it organic? Harborside was the first to sign on to Attorney Chris Van Hook’s Clean Green certification program. But there are several dispensaries using medicine with his official recognition now. This program allows medical cannabis patients to “have the benefit of an independent, third party Certification that the Cannabis was grown, processed, handled, stored, transported, packaged, labeled and distributed using Standards and Procedures that comply with national and international Guidelines for organic and sustainable farming.” Through on-site visits and a yearly review, the Clean Green program allows growers to command higher prices from the dispensary and Van Hook’s status as a lawyer allows him to provide the grower with the confidentiality of attorney client privileges. More information can be found at MCCDirectory.org.
Is it grown in environmentally sustainable ways? Organic is an excellent first step to determining the environmental soundness of a product, but other factors should also be taken into consideration. The fuel and water consumption required to grow a product must be considered, too. Indoor marijuana is grown by burning large amounts of fuel–either directly in generators or indirectly by electricity producers. Unfortunately, DeAngelo said, his attempts to educate buyers on this subject were unsuccessful. His sales of outdoor marijuana actually dropped with labeling because indoor marijuana is perceived erroneously to be less potent. Eventually, Harborside stopped tagging the product as either indoor or outdoor and, instead, began classing the medicine as High, Medium or Low grade. Sadly, sales for outdoor rose again when the client wasn’t aware of its origin.
What is the potency of the product? The Harborside lab testing provides percentages of three major Cannibinoids: THC, CBD, and CBN. The lab chooses to test for these components because, as Executive Director, Stephen DeAngelo explains:
THC contains most of the psychoactive effect of cannabis. Harborside uses it to gauge the strength of the medicine. Patients, especially those that are cannabis naïve, might find a particular medicine too strong or too weak for their purposes. Therefore, knowing levels of THC allows people to gauge that which best suits their needs.
CBD, through preliminary research and anecdotal evidence, determines much of the main therapeutic action. A number of studies show it has anti-tumorgenic properties—stops the growth of cancerous tumors. Also some studies tend to bear out that when the ratio of THC content and CBD content are certain amounts then the panic or paranoid attacks that some patients–particularly those who are unused to cannabis—experience are greatly diminished.
CBN, while having no known medical effects diminishes with age so testing for amounts allows Harborside to determine the age of the product. Cannibinoids degrade over time so the dispensary requires that all medicine be “reasonably fresh—not more than a year after harvest and curing.
DeAngelo feels that his trained staff has developed “a great deal of expertise…and that competency is applicable…” when marijuana is legalized. However, he sees a danger that large corporations could move to monopolize the marijuana business from production to sale once it is no longer illegal. He suggests that in order to stop this “a not for profit community organization [should] only accept medicine in small quantities from small growers.” He argues,” We did not spend the last 30 years working so hard to legalize cannabis to have the same corporations that oppressed us take over!”
Harborside’s open door policy welcomes growers to bring small amounts of their medicine to the dispensary for purchase. DeAngelo stands by his business’ high standards. “On the first visit, we often don’t accept the cannabis” for various reasons but he and his staff provide a great deal of support so the grower can learn to provide safe, healthy medicine for the clients of Harborside. He urges, “Come on down and check in with us. We can find a good home for your medicine.”
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