Many new products within the cannabis food and beverage industry are likely to launch once permits start being issued by Health Canada, expected in late 2019, exposing Canadians to hundreds of new formulations of consumer-packaged goods containing cannabis.
For generations, cannabis farmers have either let their plants get fertilized in the field and go to seed, or they opted to make clones (take cuttings) to create the next generation.
Over time, however, the going-to-seed approach gave way to cloning as the preferred method for indoor black market growers.
One of the wonderful things about living in a country that has legalized medical cannabis is that our institutions of higher learning have the freedom after a 50 year moratorium to study and research and publish. In fact, the government is actively encouraging research and funding universities and Public Health centres.
While there are still many hurdles that researchers have to go through, including an exemption request from Health Canada and then sourcing materials from the private sector that fit the particular profile of what they want to study (from only 60 or so licensed producers). Proposed changes in the regulatory framework will speed up the process and make this a less onerous task for researchers. The federal task force made the further announcement in January of 1.4 million dollars worth of grants the federal government is making available for research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research(CIHR).
In 2016, researchers from the CIHR, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, Health Canada, Public Safety Canada and a variety of other stakeholders met to determine Canada’s research priorities and Health Canada is now looking to those researchers to help them answer the questions around Endocannabinoids, our health, what it does to our brains. Both government and private industry have teamed up in some cases to study cannabis.
There remains only a single university that has studied and begun to publish the science behind the growing of cannabis, testing of substrates and methodologies – Guelph University.
Here is a list of some of the top 5 research findings from Canadian universities and a preview on what is coming and a reason why 389 is the answer;
1. Guelph University researchers supplied by a Canadian registered Licensed Producer, released a study on the optimal uptake of nutrients in cannabis and the effect on yield and cannabinoid production. This is probably the only time you will read in a research paper that the OG Kush x Grizzly cross was placed in paper bags for drying before being scaled. The amazing thing that occurs to me in reading this study is how they got a couple of growers in a room to agree on only half a dozen variations of the best way to grow.
It turns out that when everything is optimal there is a correlation between fertilizer uptake, growth rates and the final yield of the the plant. That number in UofG study where “yield responded to fertilizer rate quadratically with the highest yield at a rate that supplied 389 mg N/L” and at that rate you can expect about 45g of dried flower per plant.
Coming in 2018 from their research department will be research the production of high value terpenes and research specifically looking at LED lighting and light tuning strategies.
3. University of New Brunswick and St Thomas in the same week announced that they are hiring chairs to head cannabis research within the university.
2. University of Saskatchewan has made a 5 year investment with the help of CIHR and a pharma company to create a chair to investigate the interaction of Cannabinoids with our Endocannabinoid system. While the pharma’s stated goal is to replace cannabis with a synthetic version, this will at least have publishable results around methodologies.
4. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) with Dr. Sergio Rueda examine how cannabis legalization affects diverse communities in four provinces, including Indigenous and racialized communities
5. Phil Tibbo, Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University
Investigating cannabis effects on brain structure and disease course in early phase psychosis.
Contaminants in cannabis and the cannabis supply chain will be the biggest issue that faces each local jurisdiction as legalization is rolled globally and market share is taken from illegal operations.
In the black (and grey) market, there are no controls for quality assurance. There are no labs to send out both incoming nutrients and outgoing cannabis for testing.
Contamination can result from using banned substances, leeching heavy metals from the soil and growth mediums as well as from fungi, bacteria and insects infestations.
Cannabis is an accumulator plant – meaning is very adept at drawing heavy metals and pollutants out of the soil and water. In fact, it is so versatile it is being used as a phytoremediator at Chernobyl and in Italy to draw dioxin used in steel manufacturing from the soil.
Why does it happen?
There have always been three types of growers, those that maximize short-term profit at the expense of craftsmanship; those who look for the long-term relationship built on transparency, trust and quality with their customers; and those that don’t know any better.
Profits in the cannabis market are directly driven by output in grams and there are many shortcuts. The black market has a long history of using adulterants to add to the final weight (everything from sugar to sand), increase plant yields (products such as sugar flavored water) and in lieu of learning best agricultural practices (powerful fungicides and pesticides such as Eagle 20 and Forbid 4F). Many of these chemicals are systemic pesticides, which means the chemicals linger in the plant’s system for long periods of time and can be passed on to clones.
Even in legal regulated cultivations, the pressure of a successful crop can lead to a culture of rule breaking such as in the case when it was reported that employees hid banned pesticide in ceiling tiles when inspectors were on site.
Because of the illegal nature of the black market, finding reputable suppliers that will accept cash payment for massive amounts of specifically created cannabis nutrients, medium and pesticides is limited. This has resulted in growers using mass-market chemical compounds that were intended for a different application and certainly not suitable for cannabis cultivation.
You need to have a stringent testing and QA processes in place to test all incoming materials and ensure no contaminants are introduced in your growing area.
Spider mites and aphids can decimate a crop in days. Before you know it you have thousands of pests laying thousands of eggs and very few ways to get rid of them. Mites can enter a grow room through contaminated materials including soil and starting materials or if it is not properly sealed. An infestation can start as simply as a worker who has house plants carrying eggs on their clothing.
A grower in this case has very few options that are as quick as using a powerful pesticide containing Spinosad. Spinosad is allowed for use in food production so why not for cannabis production? A simple Google search will retrieve dozens of products and growers that use the products.
The simple answer is the method of dosing (foliar spraying) combined with the method of combustion is unstudied. What happens when crops containing low levels are concentrated?
When a grow room has been environmentally engineered incorrectly with high humidity levels and not enough airflow powerful fungi and powdery mildew with thrive. One of the more controversial fungicide components found in many popular products is myclobutanil that when heated produces Hydrogen Cyanide.
Why does contamination matter?
For immunocompromised patients, the effects of inhalation of cannabis contaminated with fungi and bacteria can cause opportunistic lung infections and in some cases has been the suspected cause of death for patients.
Where is it happening?
From California to Canada numerous studies have documented high levels of pesticides, insecticides and fungicides in cannabis production both in the regulated and unregulated environments.
Canadians experienced the largest medical cannabis recall when a major producer was forced to issue a voluntary recall on allcannabis produced between Feb – December of 2017 after testing revealed the presence of myclobutanil and/or bifenazate that “exceeded any of the levels permitted in food production for these two pesticides” – Note that neither of these compounds are permitted for cannabis cultivation.
Compounding the issues for producers creating cannabis extracts is that during processing these pesticides become heavily concentrated in the end product – with levels up to 500x the non-concentrated levels.
Who is doing anything about it?
Some governments, as their regulatory frameworks mature and improve are rapidly trying both set the regulations based on best agricultural practices as well as enforcing those same standards (noteworthy examples are Colorado, California and Canada). California is in a unique position as they struggle with supply and are forced to phase in testing regulations over the next 12 months. Other jurisdictions like Arizona have no test regime, as that wasn’t part of their voter referendum.
Prior to the massive cannabis recalls in Canada of myclobutanil used in production, mandatory testing for pesticides was not in place for cannabis producers. Health Canada changed their mind on allowing the sector to police their own practices and changed their protocols to include unscheduled inspections and mandatory testing protocols.
Private consortiums of companies are starting to organize around the issue. Notable examples are The Handpicked Company in California who has teamed up with The Werc Shop, SC Labs and Envirocann to provide education, awareness and best practices.
Associations such as Colorado’s Cannabis Certification Council (made up of The Organic Cannabis Association and Ethical Cannabis Alliance) are beginning certification processes for growers.
At cannaResultant we have made a commitment to transparency in our practices and our supply chain by publishing all our internal and independent testing results to our Blockchain.
Pesticides to avoid for cannabis
Eagle 20 – myclobutanil
Forbid 4F – spiromesifen
Safari 20 – dinotefuran
Hormex Vit B-1 & Growth Hormones
Rally 40WSP – myclobutanil
Nova – myclobutanil
MASALON® Fungicide – myclobutanil
MYCLOSS® Xtra Fungicide – myclobutanil
NOVA® 40W Agricultural Fungicide – myclobutanil
RALLY® 200EW Fungicide – myclobutanil
RALLY 40WSP Fungicide – myclobutanil
SYSTHANE® 125 Fungicide – myclobutanil
SYSTHANE 200EW Fungicide – myclobutanil
SYSTHANE 10WP Fungicide – myclobutanil
SYSTHANE 400WP Fungicide – myclobutanil
EVITO® Fungicide – myclobutanil
Myclobutanil 20EW T & O – myclobutanil
Oberon SC 240 – spiromesifen
Furadan – Carbofuran
Lucid and Avid – Avermectin
Oregon List of approved pesticides
Colorado List of approved pesticides
Canada List of approved pesticides
Nevada List of approved pesticides
AI is progressing at an exponential rate.
In this White Paper we discuss how we are transforming everything we do – from cultivation to strain selection with the help of machine learning and AI.
In the space of only 5 years we have seen AI go from a fledgling outlier to analysis reports from Gartner who believe that 10% of IT hiring for customer service will be for creating training materials and AI scripts to assist in job tasks in the coming years.
One of the important things we’ve learned at cannaResultant is that AI by itself is of limited value but when coupled with user feedback loops, the predictive algorithms only get stronger.