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Collaborating with our friend Ruby on her recent excellent Volteface article on irradiated cannabis

Here’s a quick summary of a recent article released by our friend Ruby Deevoy on Irradiated Cannabis and why it matters.
April 24, 2024
Industry News

We always love collaborating with Ruby Deevoy, and this one was no exception, as our technical team helped review her latest article about irradiated cannabis in Volteface.  

In the article, Ruby delivers some great high-level detail about what irradiated cannabis actually is, and why that’s important to certain users. Not everyone will know the full details, but we think it’s really fascinating to have even a top-level grasp of the facts.

In summary, her start-point is to explain that all cannabis plants are subject to a variety of pathogens. A pathogen, of course, being any organism that can cause disease to its host – such as fungi, bacteria etc. Irradiation helps eliminate these pathogens, which is extremely important in a medical cannabis context due to likely compromised immunity levels or chronic medical conditions. Within this start point, there are clearly different considerations for recreational vs medical cannabis users – and regulations.

What is the difference between medical and recreational cannabis?

“Recreational cannabis” is more or less exactly that – used for recreational (and/or social) purposes without medical justification. In contrast medical cannabis is prescribed by a healthcare professional and usually used to treat a distinct set of chronic conditions. Medical Cannabis users require a medical diagnosis and a doctor's or ‘specialist medical clinicians’ approval and recommendation. Qualifying conditions vary from country to country, but broadly might include such complaints as: epilepsy, cancer and side effects related to chemotherapy, chronic pain, cirrhosis, and glaucoma.

Different content levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) & Cannabidiol (CBD) in medical vs recreational Cannabis.

The main difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis is the content levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) & Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, which is one of the multiple known compounds in the plant that includes at least 80 other cannabinoids, including CBD. Recreational cannabis generally has more THC content than medical cannabis, which often contains higher or balanced ratios of CBD, also found in a marijuana plant. It has shown to be an excellent medical remedy for several conditions.  

Whilst the cannabis flower market (high in THC) remains constant, we’ve seen a shift towards more CBD-led products in other formats, such as gummies, gels and pastilles. One of the reasons for this is the ability of manufacturers to play with cannabinoid ratios more, and this is why we’ve seen more innovation in the area, with more products hitting the consumer market.

If you’d like to know more – and we strongly recommend giving Ruby’s article a good read, you can find it here WHAT IS ‘IRRADIATED’ CANNABIS? And why does it matter?

Update:  While attending a conference in Denmark, we learned about an alternative method called "Cold Plasma Sterilisation." 

What is Cold Plasma Disinfection or Sterilisation of Cannabis

Cold plasma is a type of disinfection method which looks like it reduces colony-forming units of different kinds of moulds without affecting the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes. 

The Cold Plasma method, from my understanding, does not require passing through heat or thorough radiation to kill microorganisms.  

Cold plasma is produced by operating a high-voltage electrical charge, creating a mix of electrons, ions, photons, and free radicals. These initiate oxidative reactions at the surface of live bacteria and spores. As a result, plasma destroys the cell walls of fungal spores by creating holes in the membranes of bacteria and spores, causing them to die.

Plasma also neutralises a wide range of bacteria and reduces the concentration of colony-forming units in moulds. Plasma not only kills moulds but also reduces the levels of mycotoxins already released by the mould.

It would be interesting to learn more as cold plasma looks less expensive (certainly less costly EU-GMP transport cost going back and forth) and a potentially more environmentally friendly way to sterilise without damaging the bulk material properties.