We know that cannabis can make people sick. We know that the pathogens present in this medicine, like many others, have killed patients[i]. We know that our most vulnerable and desperate cannabis patients are immunocompromised, terminal, and/or pediatric. WE, US, YOU AND I, must address patient safety in an informed and rational way. We do not want a failure in how we handle cannabis to give way to public distrust in its potential to heal. We have fought too hard to lose our footing at this point.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how we, as an industry, can responsibly move forward with the screening and testing of cannabis materials for pathogenic, or disease inducing, microbiological organisms. I work for Hardy Diagnostics, a microbiology company that has been a present and important part of this testing for over a decade in the US. We first established relationships with cannabis labs on the West Coast and Colorado in the early days of medical marijuana legislation. Since then, many things have changed across the corporate cannabis landscape, but the effective and reliable science of identifying potentially harmful and deadly contaminants has remained our core strength.
As we entered the cannabis testing space, we took what we knew about finding dangerous pathogens from established FDA, USP and ISO certified methods and applied these practices to the testing of medicinal, recreational, edibles, and oils. When we look at how the FDA defines the identification of Salmonella, E coli, Yeast/Mold, enterobacteriaceae and other pathogenic organisms in food, cosmetics and nutraceuticals, we see over and over again the dominance of validated and well established methods using culture media technology. I find myself regularly referring to the FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM) for the isolation and id of the following organisms:
Of course, the FDA is not alone in the use of culture media as the gold standard for microbiological testing. Methods for these and many other organisms of concern are outlined in USP and ISO, as well as the AOAC, and many other globally recognized leaders.
As a caution I will make this point, culture media does not propose to be the only approach or an independently adequate method for all microbiology testing. To date, there does not exist one single method that answers the major questions we must ask; 1) Is this a living organism, and if so, can I count the colonies? And 2) Which species of organism is this? To most honestly and accurately answer these questions, we must implement complementary technologies. In my experience, and to quote a great movie, “anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”
I have great optimism that the innovative minds and cutting edge science surrounding the cannabis community will create advances in the field of diagnostics that will benefit many other industries. I have a hope that we will be able to work together to create this world. In the meantime however, it is important that we properly implement the proven tools that we have to keep our public safe from disease.
Cannabis Industry Specialist, Hardy Diagnostics
1-800-266-2222 ext 5605
Hardy Diagnostics is an ISO certified and FDA licensed manufacturing center specializing in the production of culture media. We
[i] (Chest, Hamadeh, 988 Aug;94(2):432-3)