The 2018 Farm Bill will remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which means that hemp will be an agricultural commodity. Because of the bill, hemp will become more readily accessible for people to improve skin, hair and digestion, and calm the mind and body.
Dr. Jenelle Kim, who has extensive training in Oriental Medicine, explains that “botanicals such as rice and hemp are known to absorb more heavy metals as they grow.” Since some people farming or growing cannabis want to save money on costs, corners are cut and sacrifices are made.
“This fact leaves room for concern regarding what is being ingested when cannabis is consumed,” Dr. Kim said.
Cannabis consumes heavy metals from the soil, water and air. These metals include arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and more.
A unsafe way to grow cannabis is using fertilizer and pesticides, or pesticides and contaminated soil. The plant will absorb these contaminants.
Higher quality plants can be grown by using chemical-free fertilizers which result in more health benefits. Dr. Kim said that states like California and Colorado “oversee and require harvested bathes of medical and recreational cannabis to be tested for heavy metals.”
However, for other states, it is not mandated to test cannabis for heavy metals. For small farms, testing can be expensive since they have to have a third-party lab testing. For consumers, it is imperative to seek cannabis and hemp farms that explain that their product is tested free or low in heavy metals.
Heavy metal poisoning can be consumed through various sources, such as water, food and industrial chemicals. Small amounts of metal are consumed through various exposure, but large amounts of toxins can be very harmful to the consumer.
“High levels of heavy metals can in fact make you sick" Dr. Kim said. "Acute metal ingestion can result with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and chronic exposure may cause various symptoms resulting from damage to body organs and may increase the risk of cancer."
Andy LaFrate, founder of Charas Scientific, spoke to Smithsonian and said, "It's pretty startling just how dirty a lot of this stuff is.” After testing marijuana products they found fungi and bacteria.
"Like ourselves, this plant is living with bacteria that are essential to its survival. In terms of microbial contamination, it's kind of hard to say what's harmful and what's not. So the questions become: What's a safe threshold, and which contaminants do we need to be concerned about?"
Of course, all agricultural products will contain a small number of heavy metals. But utilizing chemicals can increase this number. And although farmers may want to cut corners, and costs, on their products, in the end, it will be beneficial and safe to begin testing. Consumers buying hemp or cannabis products are looking to improve their health, not cause more harm. If hemp products are going to become more of a widespread product, we need to ensure that the consumer is safe and that regulations prevent any negative side effects from an herb that should offer comfort and ease.