Contaminants The results of the illicit drugs market have been discussed again and again. Prohibitive drug policy causes a lot of negative consequences, of which stigmatization, impact on health, criminalization, abuse and violation are only a few. With this short series of articles, Sensi Seeds aims to inform the reader about contaminated cannabis and the possibilities of drug checking.
So, why is cannabis being contaminated in the first place? Sadly, not by accident, but in order to boost its weight and therefore the earnings of the seller. A disturbing array of adulterants, known as extenders, are being ever more frequently found in cannabis sold on the black market. The cannabis user has to live with the results, which are not to be underestimated, and can be extremely dangerous to health.
Quite a few substances can be used so as to increase the weight of cannabis. For example, the pulverized leaves of the plant, herbs and spices, fats and oils, shoe polish, sand, wax, sugar, hairspray, Brix, pesticides and fertilisers, lead, mould, glass and talcum powder. The ingenuity and variety of ideas seems inexhaustible, but they are very often irresponsible and ruthless.
Enlightenment and education – both Sensi Seeds goals – are crucial for protecting the consumer in this matter. Listed below are a few general tips that can help recognize contaminated cannabis and, hopefully, prevent the consumption of contaminated marijuana. Exercise caution when:
- the buds are suspiciously heavy
- the cannabis „burns through like a sparkler or Shisha coal“ after lighting it up
- the burning tip of the joint gives off sparks
- a chemical, plastic-like smell develops while burning
- ash residues are hard and black and turn oily and greasy after light pressure
- the buds are particularly white and look coated in a crystalline or shiny substance
- buds are particularly crumbly and fluffy, and fall apart easily
- the buds do not dry out when kept exposed to air
- residue can be found in the packaging: granulate material, crystals, and sandy, powdery substances
Sugar, salt and other intensively flavoured substances can be recognized by gustation test – simply touch the bud to the tongue. Brix can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and on the tongue so visual inspection should always be carried out first, as Sensi Seeds does not wish to encourage ingesting harmful substances! Sand, glass and minerals also crunch between the teeth, and can be identified by rubbing buds – or the residue from packing material – against a CD, where the hard particles will cause scratches. . Getting a small pocket microscope enables one to more easily spot and analyse structures, and is recommended for anyone who suspects they may come into contact with “extended” cannabis.
Cannabis Contaminants: Sand
When growing outdoors, attachments of sand and soil cannot always be avoided, especially not as the plant gets stickier while flowering. Nevertheless, cannabis is often willfully being contaminated with sand or quartz sand. Small materials can remain in the transportation medium, such as plastic bags. In addition, cannabis stretched with sand crunches between the teeth. This method of weighting cannabis can be pretty easily recognized.
Through inhalation of quartzous sand one runs the danger of developing silicosis as a form of pneumoconiosis, which is a serious lung disease, causing inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. The result of this can be bronchitis. Silicosis is developed by inhaling fine dust, quartz crystals and other mineral substances, and usually is only found as an occupational hazard among those who work with stone and silicate materials.
Cannabis Contaminants: Sugar
Cannabis that tastes sweeter than usual could be infused with sugar. Standard glucose tests – available in pharmacies as small paper strips – can tell this with certainty, asthey give quick and reliable results on carbohydrate loading. Sugar is a common cannabis extender as it is cheap and easy to obtain and apply: the sugar is dissolved in boiling water which, when it has cooled, is sprayed on the plants. The water evaporates leaving a sticky layer. If white sugar has been used, the buds may have a very pale appearance; brown sugar is also used as it appears closer in colour to mature trichomes.
Cannabis soaked in sugar burns poorly and leaves hard ashes.
Caramelised sugar residue covers the mucous membranes and bronchial tubes and can cause serious tussive irritation. Through burning and smoking, the fine inhaled caramel drops can become sediment on the lungs and cause cancer-producing substances.
Cannabis Contaminants: Brix
Fabricated in the US and Australia, Brix serves only one purpose: ‘extending’ cannabis. Brix is a liquid consisting of sugar, fluid synthetic material and hormones, in which the buds are dipped after harvest, then hung up and dried. At first sight, Brix-soaked cannabis can almost not be distinguished from unadulterated buds. However, it burns extremely badly and leaves hard ashes.
Brix contains liquid plastic and belongs, amongst other synthetic waxes like shoe polish, to the most harmful cannabis admixtures. A continuous irritating cough, mucus and shortness of breath are only a few consequences. Cancer-causing substances can be set free when Brix impregnated cannabis is burned. Furthermore, it can contain mutagenic substances.
Cannabis Contaminants: Hairspray
Hairspray is highly flammable. Exposing consumers to burning and inhaling this blend of industrial polymers, alcohol and much more is a crime: malicious injury.
The buds become hard and compact. Hairspray coated cannabis is as difficult to smoke as Brix grass, which is why the two are very often confused. Cannabis sprayed with hairspray gives off a penetrating, chemical flavour and atypical, perfumed smell.The solvents in hairspray hold a high risk of cancer when burned.
Prior to the renovation of the Sensi Seed Bank, visitors could actually see buds heavily coated in hairspray – a rare, still complete Presentation Box from the mid-90s held long colas that had been sprayed as a preservation measure when they became so dry that they began to disintegrate. Even opening the display cabinet where the box was kept was enough to release an unnatural smell, totally unlike cannabis.
Cannabis Contaminants: Pesticides and Fertilisers
Fungicides for fighting root and stem rot, pesticides against spider mites and thrips, and fertilisers and plant nutrients for better plant growth can all negatively affect cannabis.
Pyrethrins (insecticides for plant protection and crop spraying) can change nerve functions and potentially lead to neurotoxicity (damage of the nervous system). They may also provoke serious asthma related symptoms.
Whether chemical or biological, pesticide and fertiliser leftovers can remain in the buds in high concentration for a long time and are therefore an invisible danger for the consumer. This residue increases the weight of the buds, and is especially prevalent with fertilizers as for-profit growers continue to feed the plants up until the moment of harvest in the hope of producing the largest buds possible.
The alternative, which eliminates plant nutrients, salts and other remains of additivesfrom the cannabis plant – at least to some extent – is flushing, which means the plants cease receiving fertilizers but are regularly watered and rinsed with plain water for about one to three weeks before harvest.
However, there have been reports of buds not only contaminated with fertilizer residue, but actually soaked in phosphorus and potassium fertilizers known as PK13/14 in order to greatly increase weight. Obviously, the higher concentration of fertilizer increases the associated risks.
TO BE CONTINUED BY SENSI SEEDS….