One of the biggest dangers when shopping on the black market is the possibility of buying contaminated weed. After all, it isn’t as if you can report the seller to the police! In recent years, the dreaded ‘grit weed’ has returned to rear its ugly head. It is the practice of adding garbage to marijuana to increase the weight. Sadly, smoking it is potentially harmful to your health.
What Is Grit Weed?
It is a specific name for a type of contaminated marijuana. Grit weed is cannabis laced with silica glass. The goal of the dealer is to make the product heavier so they can sell more. It was a significant problem in the United Kingdom around a decade ago. Users discovered a quick way to determine if they had grit weed; they rubbed their buds on glass. If it scraped, they knew it was tainted and could toss it in the bin.
Occasionally, you’ll get herb with sand or sugar. As annoying as that is, it is far better than sprayed weed involving silica! What’s worse is that the process makes it look as if crystals cover your cannabis. Another method of checking is to chew a small nug. If it feels like you’re eating sand, don’t smoke it!
We have heard of some horror stories involving the use of grit weed. In some instances, users lose their voice, cough up blood, and end up in the hospital. Even if you don’t suffer such a dramatic decline in health, you will likely need to see several specialists. If it happens in the United States, you can expect an expensive medical bill.
Why would dealers do such a thing? To make money, of course! Sadly, black market sellers don’t care about the health of their clients. Many of them have mastered the art of making their grit weed look like high-quality herb. UK dealers occasionally spray the plants with the reflective element from paint used on road lines! One can imagine what inhaling such a substance does to your lungs!
Grit weed isn’t the only form of contaminated cannabis. Indeed, there are a myriad of ways in which marijuana becomes tainted. Here are five of the most common.
1 – Residual Solvents
This form of contamination relates to cannabis and hemp oil. Manufacturers extract the plant’s cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes in the form of oil. You can then vape it (if it includes thinning agents), or drop it in food. You can even place it beneath your tongue and hold it before swallowing.
There is a reason why supercritical CO2 extraction is considered the ‘gold standard.’ This process uses carbon dioxide as the solvent. As a result, nothing is left behind after the extraction process. It is a different matter when you use a solvent such as butane, however. Even the best attempts will likely leave traces of solvent behind. On occasion, your oil could also include chemicals from cleaning the extraction equipment!
2 – Pesticides
Unfortunately, money talks, and pesticide use is rampant in the food industry. You are mistaken if you think all cannabis is grown organically! Growers are frightened of losing their crop to pests such as aphids and spider mites. As a consequence, they add pesticides to protect their harvest.
Unfortunately, certain pesticides can linger even when the flower is dried and cured. Breathing in these particles can damage the throat, nose, and lungs. Reputable sellers use spectrometers to test for pesticides such as etoxazole and imidacloprid.
3 – Fungus
While many cases of contamination come from the black market, even weed from licensed dispensaries isn’t always ‘pure.’ A study by Thompson et al., published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection in April 2017, found out something disturbing. The researchers discovered evidence of different fungi on cannabis purchased from a legal Californian dispensary.
The most common fungi are grey mold and powdery mildew. You can spot such contamination by checking for white fuzz on the nugs. We urge you not to use any cannabis with traces of mold.
4 – Bacteria
The Thompson study also found a variety of gram-negative bacilli in dispensary cannabis. This MMJ contained E. coli and other harmful bacteria. The best way to test for bacteria is via microbial testing. While today’s dispensary marijuana is better than ever, it still pays to keep an eye for any potential contaminants.
5 – General Contamination
As you can see, there are several ways in which cannabis becomes contaminated during the growing and extraction processes. However, you are also at the mercy of the individuals who handle the herb. In legal states, it is less of an issue because dispensaries risk their reputation. It is in their best interest to sell you high-quality marijuana. Otherwise, they will lose business and eventually shut down.
There are no such protections on the black market. Dealers seeking to increase profits will add whatever they can to your cannabis. This is one of the many reasons why we MUST fully legalize weed. However, many legal states don’t yet require testing for harmful chemicals, pesticides, and fungi. If you live in such a location, find a dispensary you can trust, and shop nowhere else.
How Do I Know if My Cannabis Is Contaminated?
The contamination of cannabis is no laughing matter. It is essential for you to learn how to spot it before it damages your health. As we mentioned earlier, you can test for grit weed by chewing a small piece. The main alternative is rubbing it against glass and listening for a scraping sound.
A similar tactic is to grind the weed to create kief. Place it on a clean surface and roll a glass over it. If you hear cracking or scratching sounds, it is probably laced with silica. One cool method involves using a blank CD – if such a device exists anymore! Rub the kief on the CD and see if it causes any scratches.
It isn’t easy to spot grit weed because the glass particles are usually no more than 0.02mm or 0.03mm across. One positive piece of information came from a consultant at Imperial College London many years ago. He said that particles bigger than 0.015mm would not get into the lungs. Instead, they would deposit in the mouth and throat. The consultant claimed that using a filter would stop the particles even getting into the mouth.
Of course, there are other ways for marijuana to become toxic. You can use all five senses to differentiate ‘good’ weed from ‘bad.’ We have already covered ‘hearing,’ so let’s check out the other four.
1 – Sight
Experienced users will likely spot contaminated cannabis a mile away. If you see white powdery speckles or green/gray fuzz, the plant probably has mold or mildew. You can also take a quick joint or bong hit and examine the ashes. Toxic marijuana often forms ‘hard’ ash that is often extremely black. It also remains in place when you tap a joint on the edge of your ashtray.
2 – Smell
The terpenes in marijuana help provide a unique scent for every strain. In general, you will get a musky and occasionally sweet aroma. If your weed smells damp or far too sweet, there is every chance it is moldy or otherwise contaminated. Dried buds that smell like freshly cut grass are also worth avoiding. It is a sign that the grower didn’t dry and cure them properly.
If you don’t trust your sense of smell, make things a little easier. Put the cannabis in a clean Ziploc bag. Next, stick your nose inside and take a deep breath. If you are a regular weed user, you will know what scent to expect. Be wary of any herb that has an unusual aroma such as that of perfume.
3 – Touch
Place the herb between your fingers. If it feels crispy and dry, it doesn’t have mold though this isn’t a guarantee of being free from contamination. If it feels spongy and damp, it is likely riddled with mold. You should also avoid cannabis with a powdery texture because it probably means a dealer has added something else.
4 – Taste
When you smoke your marijuana, it should offer a natural taste. Again, experienced users know what we are talking about. Also, read our list of cannabis strain reviews to learn what to expect. If the weed gives an unusual ‘chemical’ taste, there is likely something wrong. Unless, of course, it is a rare strain that is supposed to provide such a weird flavor!
Another tactic is to place your tongue on the bud. If it has an excessively sweet taste, it is probably coated with sugar. The cannabis is also likely contaminated if it has an unduly harsh taste that causes you to cough relentlessly. Again, strains such as Strawberry Cough do this naturally, so read our strain reviews to learn more!
The Danger of Contaminated Weed
We hope that readers already understand the harm caused by marijuana toxicity. If you consume contaminated cannabis, you may experience severe chest pains. In some instances, a failure to treat these symptoms could prove fatal. If you don’t believe us, check out the vaping epidemic happening in the United States!
The CDC has confirmed more than 60 fatalities linked with vaping products. In practically every case, the victim has consumed THC vape-liquid purchased from a black-market source. Vitamin E acetate is a likely culprit. However, these illegal oils also contained a myriad of harmful chemicals. Aside from the deaths, over 2,700 users spent time in a hospital.
You may also get an allergic reaction from using contaminated weed. Have you ever experienced an itchy throat, eye inflammation, or excessive mucus production after using marijuana? Is this a normal reaction for you, or was it a one-time thing? If it is the former, you probably shouldn’t use cannabis! If it is the latter, you likely had an allergic reaction to the contaminants.
It is hopefully apparent to you what using tainted products such as grit weed does to your lungs and overall health. Bacteria and fungi such as mucor, fusarium, and penicillium can do severe damage to the respiratory system. Another common pesticide, myclobutanil, could cause the following side effects:
- Abdominal pain
- Eye irritation
When myclobutanil is heated, it becomes hydrogen cyanide. Does it sound ominous? It should! The Nazis used it in their gas chambers. The deadly chemical was also used during the massacre at Jonestown. In high concentrations, it is lethal. Side effects include:
- Respiratory difficulty
Light a joint with myclobutanil-tainted cannabis, and you can imagine what happens next.
Bottom Line on Grit Weed
Ultimately, consuming toxic weed is a practice that could see you end up in a hospital, or worse. It is essential to understand precisely what you are smoking. There are thousands of studies that show marijuana itself isn’t harmful in moderate doses. Research also suggests that consuming a toxic amount is almost impossible.
Alas, the picture changes when you add contaminated weed to the mix. Suddenly, your ‘relaxing’ habit could become extremely dangerous to your health. If you live in California, there is good news. The state requires testing for harmful chemicals, pesticides, and fungi. You can walk into a licensed dispensary and purchase weed with confidence.
Other legal states don’t have mandatory testing. However, legal dispensaries will soon go out of business if they sell tainted products. As such, you are likely to find good-quality herb in such locations. Those buying on the black market face an array of risks. It is challenging to uncover contaminated weed without lab testing. However, you give yourself a fighting chance by following our advice above.