Laboratory processes for food

What the heck is irradiated cannabis?

You may have heard that cannabis provided for medical consumption in the UK is irradiated, but what does this mean? Is it nuked?

Technically yes it is.

The procedure of irradiation is a technique used in many production processes such as food and medicine. During irradiation, food is exposed to electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays.

Irradiated cannabis leaf

Why is radiation used in medical cannabis?

It’s well established, and designed to remove harmful bacteria or mold that could you make you really ill, or impact the intended effects of the medicine. To be able to run a medicinal cannabis business, you need to be able to rely on the crop not being ruined.

Is irradiated cannabis safe?

The term ‘radiation’ makes you think about cancer causing nasties associated with mass industrialization, and a runaway capitalist system based on planet polluting businesses.

But if you’re a cancer patient who has undergone heavy treatment, then the prospect of catching a nasty bug from infected products or weed is pretty scary.

Irradiated food and medicine has been exposed to radiation but does not become radioactive itself. Standards agencies state that the process has been deemed as safe through countless research experiments, conducted since 1950.

Quality issues in irradiated cannabis

The whole point of using irradiated cannabis is to increase consistency and quality. However, many medical cannabis users regularly complain that the flower arrives ‘dead’, and that precious terpenes have been dramatically affected by the radiation process.

Reports of mold appearing in the middle of medical cannabis buds are really common in the UK, which raises questions about the quality control processes in the chain, and potentially even the effectiveness of irradiation.

What’s the lowdown on irradiated cannabis?

The wizards believe that irradiation is currently an important process in providing consistent, safe, and quality assured medicine. Many people using medical cannabis have compromised immune systems, and exposure to bugs or nasties that can grow in an unprocessed plant, could be really serious.

Medical growers need to meet stringent guidelines (the UK and Canada have particularly strict rules compared to some other countries) whilst also making a profit. Using effective procedures like irradiation are clearly important.

That said, some growers in the UK are providing different forms of sterilisation, or favouring electronic beam over gamma, which many believe improves the quality of the medical cannabis, and reduces impact on flavour and aroma.

For those who consume cannabis for recreation purposes, the process of irradiation is probably not desirable, given the impact on terpenes.

Our planet and our society need to reconnect with the magic of organic and natural process when producing food and medicine. There is a lot of room in the medical cannabis industry for improvement.

When the plant can be produced in conditions that are sterile enough to remove the need for irradiation, then surely medicinal cannabis can also follow suit.

For recreational weed, the benefits of organic and natural processes are clearly the way to go.


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