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article imageDo we need a new safety standard for medical marijuana?

By Tim Sandle     Sep 27, 2015 in Health
Washington - With the use of medical marijuana becoming accepted and following legislation enacted by a number of U.S. states, health professionals are considering whether cannabis requires a microbiological safety standard.
Microbiological safety, along with chemical purity and efficacy, is a requirement for most medicinal products (and certainly those which require U.S. FDA and EMA approval.) U.S. Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Western States including Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington have legalized the sale of powdered cannabis for both recreational and medical use.
Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug “having no medical use, with a high potential for abuse,” there is no requirement for the drug to have either a maximum number of permitted microorganisms or for it to have the absence of specific pathogenic organisms.
In an insightful article for American Pharmaceutical Review (“Microbiological Attributes of Powdered Cannabis”), Tony Cundell argues that marijuana in the powder form carries a risk of containing microorganisms that can tolerate relatively dry environments (such as fungi) and their toxic by-products. It is relatively easy, the article states, for cannabis to become “contaminated with other human pathogens during its cultivation, processing and distribution.” While the Cannabis sativa plant contains a number of natural fungi, arguably greater risks emerge when the plant is processed and from inadequate storage.
This issue is especially pertinent if it considered that many people who smoke or use marijuana in cooking will be those with weak or compromised immune systems. Many people with HIV or who are undergoing chemotherapy take marijuana to help alleviate feelings of ill-health, as examples.
Cundell cites published research that shows marijuana to contain higher levels of fungi than tobacco (in fact, tobacco invariably contains little or no mold whereas cannabis can contain up to 300 spores per gram.)
One of the key risks here is aspergillosis (caused by fungi of the Aspergillus genus.) Aspergillosis occurs in the form of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA), aspergilloma or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. These forms of lung disease lead to symptoms that include the coughing up of blood, chest pain, and occasionally severe, sometimes fatal, bleeding.
On this basis, the article calls for a standard to be put in place which will require the producers of marijuana in the powder form to carry microbiological testing, screening for populations of bacteria and fungi and to have a system in place not to sell products that pose a risk to human health. For this to happen, a change to U.S. legislation will be required.
More about Medical Marijuana, marjiuana, Cannabis, microbial, Fungi
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