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How to Identify and Prevent Moldy Weed

Weed mold is an unfortunate but avoidable consequence of improper processing conditions. Cannabis becomes vulnerable to mold growth when the surrounding environment is too hot, too bright, too humid, or contaminated. Moldy weed can ruin an entire harvest, diminishing the profitability and reputability of a company, but it is also unsafe to consume. Not only does mold growth degrade important cannabinoids and terpenes, it can also cause unpleasant physical symptoms when inhaled. 

Fortunately, contemporary technology offers solutions to reduce the risk of mold growth and keep cannabis buds in ideal environments. 

Why does cannabis get moldy?

Like most plants that we consume, cannabis is vulnerable to mold when the surrounding environment is extreme or imbalanced. When humidity, temperature, and light vary too much, mold often finds a home on cannabis buds. Mold is a fungus that thrives in moist environments without proper air circulation. It reproduces through the release of minuscule air-borne spores that cause injuries to the plant. 

Frequently, when growers and manufacturers keep temperatures and moisture levels too high, their cannabis plants become moldy. During the plant’s growth, some people make the mistake of overwatering, which can also lead to mold. And during the curing and storage stages of cannabis production, improper storage often results in mold growth. 

Growing, harvesting, drying, curing, and storing cannabis is a sensitive and delicate process. At each stage, meticulous attention must be paid to temperature, humidity levels, light exposure, and air circulation. 

Maintaining optimal conditions during the post-harvest process is an important part of producing high-quality flower, but all that hard work is wasted if the plant is not stored properly. Even if a harvest is managed perfectly throughout its preparation for sale, it can still become moldy if it is not packaged correctly. Dispensaries and wholesalers need the ability to transport their products without worrying about changes in air circulation, moisture levels, and light. 

What does mold look like on cannabis?

Because cannabis buds have such complex pigmentations and textures, it can be difficult to identify when something is amiss. All cannabis is susceptible to mold growth if its conditions are not ideal, which means a consumer should always check their buds, even if they are grown by the highest quality farms in the country. 

Legalizing cannabis has helped ensure the quality and integrity of the cannabis we consume, but there is still room for human error from the farm to the shopper’s home.

Mold and mildew growth can look very similar to trichomes and deeper colors on buds. The two most common molds that grow on cannabis are powdery mildew and rot called botrytis. While both of these molds are visible to the human eye, they sometimes produce a distinct odor, often compared to a wet basement or hay. Because all molds do not produce odors, it is important to know the visual signs of mold on cannabis. 

Mold textures can appear fuzzy, hair-like, webby, or similar to the texture of cotton candy. Sometimes white powdery mildew is mistaken for trichomes because it appears like fuzzy white hair which closely resembles the sheen of trichomes. To distinguish between the two, identify trichomes by their crystally appearance and powdery mildew by its dusty, white powder appearance. Botrytis mold is also fuzzy, but usually appears brown, black, or gray. 

Mold growth is often triggered by unstable environments and can occur at any stage of the post-harvest process. Buds are the most common place to find mold, so it is important to be vigilant. 

What happens if you smoke moldy weed?

For the same reasons it is dangerous to live in a home with black mold in the walls, it is harmful to smoke moldy weed. Mold spores are airborne and not friendly to the human body. These spores can cause significant physical discomfort when inhaled, inducing negative bodily reactions like nausea, coughing, and vomiting. 

For most people, short-term exposure will not result in serious damage, but it should still be avoided at all costs, especially for someone allergic to mold. Smoking moldy weed will almost certainly make you feel sick and not particularly high. Because mold is a volatile organic compound, it degrades the valuable cannabinoids in cannabis. 

Inhaling mold can be dangerous for people with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions like asthma. Therefore, it is important to be careful not to consume moldy weed. Exposure to many types of mold spores on a bud can cause lung infections, serious allergic reactions, and dangerous respiratory damage. In some cases, inhalation of mold can also cause lethargy, memory loss, and fever. 

Signs of an allergic reaction to mold inhalation include an array of unpleasant symptoms like sinus pain, congestion, wheezing, and extreme coughing. 

How to prevent mold on cannabis

There are a variety of ways to ensure a harvest does not fall victim to mold in its indoor growing space or on the farm for outdoor growers. Preventing moldy marijuana requires proper drying, curing, and storage. High humidity levels at any stage of the post-harvest and storage processes are harmful to cannabis. 

Growers must also avoid over-watering during the final stages of flowering. Manufacturers and growers need adequate airflow and grow room filtration systems. And proper storage methods should always include some sort of humidity control. But professionals have a variety of methods to ensure cannabis mold prevention. 

To deter mold growth, growers sometimes use fungicide mixtures or essential oils like eucalyptus and thyme to prevent mold spores from settling. Others choose to add silica in the soil to strengthen stems and act as an alkaline adjustor. However, after the plant is harvested, other protective measures must be taken to ensure the integrity of the bud. 

Human error is the reason behind most moldy cannabis, but modern technology can help ensure your flower is not exposed to adverse conditions. Mold growth can occur during the early stages of the curing process when cannabis is not properly dried and stored. Grove Bags TerpLoc® technology creates a perfect microclimate to preserve cannabis for extended time periods, offering a hands-off solution that diffuses oxygen based on the plant’s existing respiration process. 

The technology removes excess water vapor and prevents mold growth without the need for burping, complex storage methods, or humidity packs. All Grove Bags products feature humidity control, which keeps cannabis fresh and free from contaminants. Because Grove Bags offer a two-in-one solution for curing and storing, moving through the final stages of preparation for sale is both easy and controlled. 

Because there is no transition between curing and storing, buds are kept in perfectly controlled environments for long periods of time, protecting them from mold growth, THC degradation, and other forms of damage.

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