Cannabis products are generally well-tolerated, but there are several risks that can affect the user’s physical and mental health.
Here are some common risks of using cannabis products.
Cannabis-derived products are versatile and well-tolerated among individuals, making them a popular natural option for those seeking traditional medicine alternatives, which often come with adverse side effects.
While the side effects of cannabis products are minimal, they can be exacerbated if using low-quality products that may contain contaminants and are not often batch-tested to ensure effectiveness and safety. So, what are the specific risks to keep in mind when using cannabis products?
Heavy Metals and Pesticides
Both heavy metals and pesticides are common contaminants in cannabis strains. Ingesting heavy metals like copper, lead, and mercury is hazardous. When consumed in high concentrations or over a prolonged period, they can negatively affect our health. Effects include nausea and headaches, to even organ failure in severe cases (1).
Heavy metals can accumulate since cannabis plants are known to take up everything from their environment through the roots. The plants can then accumulate heavy metals found in contaminated water, soils, or fertilizers into the leaves and flowers (2).
Likewise, pesticides can also be found in some cannabis products. Due to the confusion around federal regulations, cannabis growers often use pesticides to control pests and microbial agents that could affect plant growth (3). What does this mean for us? There has been some suggestion that pesticides can contribute to the development of side effects with cannabis use, so choosing higher-quality products that have been lab-tested is recommended.
Solvents from Extractions and Modifications
Cannabis extractions are needed to produce concentrates for therapeutic use. Generally, this process involves numerous solvents to help purify the final product. However, some solvents can affect the aroma and aftertaste of the cannabis product, and residual solvents have also been linked to the development of various health issues (4).
The solvents commonly used while producing cannabis products contain butane and propane as part of hydrocarbon extraction, ethanol for alcohol extraction, and carbon dioxide (5). Previously, other solvents were used for cannabis extraction but are now prohibited or strictly regulated by the FDA for their potent toxicity.
While every solvent-based extraction or modification technique aims to produce a solvent-free cannabis product, residual solvents often occur. Depending on the amount and type of solvent, the health risk can be significant (6). Due to this, cannabis extraction industries producing higher-quality products should run additional tests to check for any persisting solvent residues.
Microbials and Mycotoxins
Mould and bacteria are ever-present in our daily lives. While they generally don’t pose a severe threat to our health under normal circumstances, higher contamination levels can be harmful, especially when inhaled. Mycotoxins naturally occur from certain fungi. Fungi or mould can grow on various crops, especially under warm and humid conditions (7). Microbials are bacteria that exist at a microscopic level.
Both microbials and mycotoxins can be present in cannabis products from the environment, how they were stored, or during manipulation of the cannabis plant (8). Unless cannabis is grown in perfect conditions with sufficient air filtration, these compounds will be found on the plant and the products made with them.
This is a concern for cannabis users, as researchers have found sterilization of the cannabis product does not necessarily mean the product is safe for consumption. Microbial components can leave behind traces of toxins leading to allergy-like reactions in the user (9). Due to this, there is a need for cannabis companies to monitor conditions throughout the entire farming to the storage stages.
To combat this, CBX is partnering with ATTIS to create a quality label for cannabis products CCCSC (Certified Controlled Cannabis for Safe Consumption). This is a certification of safety for cannabis products that companies can apply to get. This ensures the production of controlled and standardized products. To guarantee safety, our Label CCCSC requires ISO17025 level COA of all above mentioned plus cannabinoids and terpenes.
The Bottom Line
Using cannabis products can come with several risks to the user. Most of these risks stem from unsafe farming, extraction, and storage and handling practices that can be limited by strict regulation. As more research is carried out, further control over practices is expected to continue.