Are Contaminants the Real Problem with Marijuana?

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Are Contaminants the Real Problem with Marijuana?
Are Contaminants the Real Problem with Marijuana?

People often believe that if something is legal, it is safe. This is an utterly fallacious assumption. Contaminated marijuana, laced with arsenic, lead or mold, is causing severe, potentially life-threatening illness nationwide as the legal use of cannabis products skyrockets.

To ensure the common good, thorough study and analysis are crucial before enacting any law. However, due diligence was not done by the 34 U.S. states that have legalized marijuana as they placed the proverbial cart before the horse.

Studies report that individuals who have used marijuana tend to have elevated levels of heavy metals in their bloodstream and are at a higher risk of developing fungal infections. Research has associated contaminants present in marijuana with sudden-onset numbness, fatal lung bleeding, and artery disease leading to amputations.

Last year, federal health authorities received numerous reports of poisonings and other harmful side effects related to marijuana use. An Arizona dispensary even issued a voluntary recall of cannabis products named “Grim Reefer” due to potential contamination with the lethal fungi Aspergillus.

Marijuana products pose a significant contamination danger resulting from its propensity to absorb heavy metals from the soil. Indeed, it is so effective at purifying polluted soil that hemp was cultivated near the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site to render the soil fit for growing crops again. Other contamination risks arise from pesticides sprayed on the plant and fungal spores like mold dispersed through air and water, particularly during harvesting.

Many medical users have ceased their use over contamination concerns. Common complaints include numbness in their feet, muscle twitches, nausea and cramps, and medical testing has found high levels of lead, cadmium and nickel in many users’ systems.

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There has been a significant surge in marijuana usage following its legalization in some 24 states for recreational use. However, the haste to offer this hallucinogen has trumped the due diligence needed to adequately consider the long-term effects of the drug Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s active ingredient and the quality and safety of associated regulated products.

While federal agencies have set baseline standards for tobacco products and fruit and vegetable farming, there are no national guidelines for testing marijuana’s potency or potential contaminants. There is not even a federal body charged with overseeing such matters.

State and local regulations vary widely, creating an incongruent patchwork of contradictory regulations. For instance, California mandates testing for numerous contaminants, while some areas have no testing requirements whatsoever. Accordingly, Kevin Sabet, former senior advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cautions cannabis consumers to be vigilant due to the lack of standardized testing.

Notwithstanding the gravity of the health hazards posed by contaminated marijuana, , contamination is not the sole or even greatest concern about its dangers.

While marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen, states that have legalized marijuana failed to take into account the many longitudinal international studies that reveal a significant link between marijuana use in youth and the onset of schizophrenia and other psychoses in later life in individuals with an inherent vulnerability.

Michelle Peace, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, describes the situation as alarming, emphasizing the user’s challenge in discerning product safety. In 2023, U.S. poison control centers received 31,000 calls related to cannabinoid substances, marking a significant increase from 2019, with reports of 42 deaths involving these substances.

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The Food and Drug Administration has documented adverse events associated with cannabis consumption, such as agitation, rapid heart rate and headaches. Certain species of aspergillus, a commonly found mold, have the potential to cause fatal lung bleeding in immune-compromised marijuana users. Additionally, cryptococcus, another fungus species, has been associated with life-threatening fungal infections affecting the brain and spinal cord tissues.

Others have reported experiencing muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat and hives after consuming marijuana gummies. Exposure to pesticides in cannabis products may result in seizures and other neurological issues, while the presence of heavy metals like arsenic poses carcinogenic risks, according to researchers.

Individuals with weakened immune systems face heightened risks from contaminated products due to reduced disease resistance, leading to fungal infections such as lung and skin issues.

Although certain states like Oregon and Colorado enforce mandatory testing for specific contaminants, the reliance on growers to fund testing labs raises major red flags concerning conflict of interest. Professor Donald Land, Chemistry, Forensic Science and Biotechnology, University of California, Davis, and he is also a former chief scientific consultant at a cannabis testing lab, has highlighted the ease of manipulating testing outcomes when growers select labs and emphasized the need for stringent regulatory control.

Calls to establish a national regulatory office within the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to supervise medical and recreational cannabis are gaining momentum. Advocates are pressing for standardized guidelines, enhanced federal oversight, and increased testing to address discrepancies across states. However, the implementation of contamination testing does little to prevent mental health problems arising from the drug itself.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the developing brains of babies, children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to the detrimental effects of marijuana. They further define the short-term effects of marijuana on the brain as having an immediate impact on thinking, attention, memory, coordination, movement and time perception.

Contaminated marijuana laced with arsenic, lead or mold, is cause for alarm. However, there appears to be little concern for the effects of THC, the hallucinogen in marijuana, that has been proven to play a role in the development of schizophrenia, paranoia, psychosis, depression, and other psychotic disorders.

At the onset of the twenty-first century, liberals and other drug advocates sought to legalize the use of marijuana, claiming it would benefit society without adverse consequences. However, this claim proved false, as amply evidenced above. Decades ago, longitudinal studies demonstrated what is now taking place as we blindly plunge into an abyss of reckless consequences.

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