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Hemp Contaminants: Why There Might Be Heavy Metals and Toxins In Your Flowers

hemp contaminants
Written by Alexandra Hicks

Experienced growers know there are many environmental factors that can contaminate their crops, and they need to do everything they can to prevent this and keep their consumers safe.

As you may or may not know, the hemp plant is known as one of the “accumulator plants” of nature. What this means is that it accumulates everything from its environment and these compounds remain in the plant. Simplified, hemp sucks up environmental contaminants, whether they come from the soil, fertilizer, or water.

This can be beneficial in rare circumstances. For example, because of its effectiveness as an accumulator plant, hemp (cannabis L sativa) was used after the Chernobyl accident to remove radiation from the soil. By every day standards though, this is a problem because any heavy metals and contaminants the plant absorbs will be consumed by people who are using it. And these contaminants continue to affect the plant throughout future life cycles – i.e. the sapling, the germ, and even the seed.

What can be done about this?

hemp contaminants

Good soil and nutrient-rich fertilizer are essential to growing safe cannabis

There are two very important things growers can do to keep hemp safe and clean. First and foremost, planting in virgin soil that hasn’t been previously contaminated. While this may sound simple, finding a good place to grow large-scale crops can be challenging. Especially when it comes to some of the huge industrial hemp crops that are often grown outdoors.

The other major issue that needs to be tackled is the need for hemp/cannabis-specific fertilizers. Aside from the fact that it’s an accumulator, cannabis is a very unique plant that requires certain conditions to grow well. So far, no standard fertilizer exists for this industry. Extensive research needs to be conducted on multiple different stains in order to develop a safe and nutrient rich fertilizer for the cannabis plant’s specialized needs.

How different markets are handling hemp contaminants?

So far, California, Oregon, and Washington require all hemp/cannabis fertilizers sold within those states to be registered. In order to be registered, at least one independent lab test for heavy metals needs to come back with results being at or below the permissible level.

In California, all this information is available through the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The requirements in Washington are similar to California, however, they don’t require registration for products without certain plant nutrients. In Oregon, labs only test for arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and nickel.

Bottom line, avoiding hemp contaminants can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. In that same vein, avoiding plant contaminants in general can be a challenge. Whether you’re talking about cannabis and hemp or produce from your local grocery store, unfortunately there is often some kind of unwanted compound hiding in there.

Note that this is just chapter 1 of a multi-part story. Check back with us as we continue to discuss the various contaminants found in hemp plants, the impact they can have on your health, and some ways to avoid this hazard. Also, make sure to subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter for all the most recent news and information about the cannabis industry.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.