04 20 2015
  11:35 pm  
     •     
40 Years of Service
Healthy cannabis plant

Cannabis testing is important because mold, salmonella and other contaminants could make users sick.

The microscope at the University of New Haven, set at 10-times magnification, shows a marijuana leaf covered with dozens of tiny bumps. It's mold, and someone, somewhere could be smoking similarly contaminated pot and not have a clue.

Heather Miller Coyle, a forensic botanist and associate professor at the university, says all sorts of nasty things not visible to the naked eye have been found in marijuana — mold, mildew, insect parts, salmonella and E. coli, to name a few.

That's why Coyle and her students earlier this year began developing a new process to detect contaminants in marijuana through DNA profiling and analysis. The aim is to be able to identify potentially harmful substances through a testing method that could make the analysis easier and quicker for labs across the country in the developing industry of marijuana quality control testing.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., now allow medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, and Washington state and Colorado have legalized the recreational pot use. Connecticut and Washington state already require testing and other states are doing the same, spawning a testing industry.

“If there's no certification ... it's like saying we don't check our meat for mad cow disease,” Coyle said. “That's our goal as a private university, to develop the tools to address or mediate this issue.”

A number of labs around the country are testing marijuana for contaminants using different methods, many of which have been around for decades and used to test other plants, including food crops, for harmful substances.

The health effects of marijuana tainted with mold, pesticides and other contaminants aren't clear, said Mason Tvert, a Colorado-based spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. The project was founded in 1995 to lobby for the reduction or elimination of penalties for marijuana use.

“Although we have not seen significant problems with tainted marijuana in the past, we should certainly be taking steps to make sure it's not a problem in the future,” Tvert said. “We have never seen a death solely associated with marijuana use. The same certainly can't be said of alcohol and other drugs.”

Food and Drug Administration records from 1997-2005 show no cases in which marijuana was the primary suspected cause of death, but the drug was listed as a secondary suspected cause contributing to 279 deaths.

 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in July that an “epidemic” of synthetic drug use has caused rising numbers of deaths and emergency room visits.

 One study released earlier this year, however, found that pesticide residues on cannabis are transferred to inhaled marijuana smoke, possibly posing a “significant toxicological threat.” The study was done by The Werc Shop, an independent testing lab for medical cannabis in Pasadena, Calif., and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology.

Marijuana can develop mold from an inadequate drying process or poor storage conditions after harvesting. It can also become tainted with E. coli and other dangerous substances by being near farm animals.

 Coyle will be developing a new method for creating DNA profiles of biological contaminants found in marijuanaincluding mold, viruses, fungi and bacteria. The profiles could then be compared with DNA profiles of organisms kept in a database maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information — a division of the National Institutes of Health.

 “What we're trying to do is put the information together in a user-friendly format,” Coyle said. “Having some better technology in place is a good thing.”

 The university's work also will include identifying whether cannabis material is real marijuana or a synthetic version comprising non-marijuana herbs sprayed with THC, the compound that gets users high.

 Coyle is aiming to complete the new process by next summer. What happens after that hasn't been determined. The school could patent the process and sell it for a fee to whoever wanted to use it, or could allow its use for free, she said. The school also could establish its own commercial testing lab.

 The University of New Haven's work is an extension of the law enforcement-related marijuana DNA profiling the school has done over the past five years under a $100,000 grant from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The school created a marijuana DNA profile database that has helped federal authorities determine where illegal pot growers and dealers got their product.

Pacific NW Carpenters Union

Commenting Guidelines

  • Keep it clean: Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language
  • No personal attacks: We reserve the right to remove offensive comments
  • Be truthful: Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything
  • Be nice: No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person
  • Help us: If you see an abusive post, let us know at info@theskanner.com
  • Keep to topic: We will remove irrelevant posts and spam
  • Share with us: We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts; the history behind an article

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
    Read More
  • Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about 'high stakes' tests   
    Read More
  • Watch Rachel Maddow interview VA Secretary Robert McDonald  
    Read More
  • Some two thousand people pack halls to hear Trayvon Martin's mom speak   
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all
Carpentry Professionals

PHOTO GALLERY

Calendar

About Us

Breaking News

The Skanner TV

Turn the pages

Portland Opera Showboat 2
The Skanner Photo Archives