This may sound obvious, but consuming moldy weed may present certain health hazards, particularly to the lungs. Less obvious is the fact that vapes and concentrates may pose some of the same dangers. Luckily, knowledge is the best preventative medicine. Here we’ll cover how to assess the health risks of smoking moldy weed, how to tell if you’ve encountered moldy weed, and how to avoid smoking it at all.
What are the risks of smoking moldy weed?
“The main concern is a reaction to the mold. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. A mild reaction to inhaling mold might be coughing and throat irritation,” said Dr. Melanie Bone, board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist.
Coughing and throat irritation, when moderate or severe, should be warning signs to scale back on smoking, whether mold is suspected or not. Mold is not the only factor that can cause these symptoms, so reduce your cannabis smoking if you find yourself experiencing a hacking cough or burning throat.
Other more serious symptoms may also arise from smoking moldy weed. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who are very sensitive or allergic to mold might experience significant problems with a fungal infection in the throat and lungs,” said Bone.
What happens if you smoke moldy weed
In regards to weed, molds feed on the cannabis plant, and a moldy weed plant is considered diseased. Mold spores cannot be incinerated by smoking or vaping, and mold poses the biggest threat for people with a compromised immune system.
Frequent symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headaches, heaviness of breath, diarrhea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and in more serious cases, fever and pneumonia.
People who are allergic to penicillin and other mold-derived antibiotics can also experience an allergic reaction.
Mold is the number one health hazard for cannabis users, and in the worst-case scenario a user can develop a lung infection, requiring immediate hospitalization.
If left untreated, an infection caused by mold can result in fungus balls growing in the lungs (aspergillomas), which is a condition that requires an urgent surgical procedure.
What does moldy weed look like
The best way to figure out if your weed is infected by mold is through visual inspection.
Depending on the exact type of mold, it can have many different appearances.
Some types of mold look appear like white, grey or black web-like stuff, closely resembling a spider’s web.
Powdery mildew resembles confectionary sugar or sawdust, and people tend to mistake this kind of mold for dusted kief, or even that the weed was laced.
Other types of mold create a sludge-like or slime-like matter on weed, which can be brownish, yellowish, or white/grey.
Mold that looks like dark spots (black or dark green) can also infect both buds and leaves.
Some people also have issues differentiating trichomes from mold. Trichomes are tiny transparent mushroom-like outgrowths on the surface of weed, where both cannabinoids and terpenes are located.
The best way to differentiate trichomes from mold is that trichomes appear very crystalline in structure, while mold has a web-like or cotton candy-like structure.
Weed’s trichome nodules are also very singular (with distinct spaces between them), while mold is completely interconnected.
If mold has recently developed, it can be very difficult to spot it with a naked eye.
What does moldy weed smell like
Another method for determining if your weed is moldy is through the sense of smell.
Depending on the type, the smell of mold can be like urine, sweat, hay, cat-like, musty or stuffy.
For maximal certainty, it’s best to combine both visual and odor detection techniques together.
Tips for amateur growers
When growing weed, there are numerous things you should always do, and several you want to avoid. First of all, don’t use fruit peels as fertilizer, as they can introduce mold spores.
For additional security, try growing strains that are high in anti-fungal terpenes such as limonene, eucalyptol and trans-nerolidol. The presence of these terpenes makes cannabis plants increasingly resistant to mold.
If you’re growing in a closed environment, use fans to keep the level of fresh air optimal.
For outdoor growers, there are four aspects to consider:
- Grow plants suited for your climate
- Grow your weed in a moderately windy area
- If your plants are covered in morning dew, give each of them a proper shake
- Use an overhead tarp in case of rain
You should regularly save cuttings in case mold infects your crop.
Also, make sure that you’ve carefully trimmed your buds before you start the drying process, as they retain less moisture. Desiccants are also a fine option when you’re packing your cannabis.
If mold happens, make sure to dispose of the infected plants immediately, in order to prevent further contamination. You should apply anti-mold agents to sanitize your grow room.
How much moldy weed do you need to smoke to be adversely affected?
Just as the psychoactive effects of THC differ among individuals, so do the short and long-term effects of smoking moldy marijuana. “Some smokers will be affected right away, while others may not evidence any obvious untoward effects, even years later. It is unpredictable,” said Bone.
The unpredictability of moldy weed side effects means that consumers should exercise caution before lighting up. Fortunately, there are several key indicators that can help you identify and avoid moldy marijuana.
Can you tell if you have smoked moldy weed?
Before you smoke a joint or a blunt, there are ways you can tell if it is moldy. Odor, for example, is one of the surest ways to identify mold. “If it smells like old sneakers or your grandmother’s attic, look carefully for evidence of mold,” Bone said.
In addition, the closer the product is to its expiration date, the more likely it is to have acquired mold. If a cannabis product is past its expiration date, you should assume that it is moldy and unsafe to consume. Further, you may be at greater risk of ingesting mold or other hazardous substances if you smoke roach weed.
If you do smoke moldy weed, the short-term symptoms of coughing and irritated throat are reliable clues. If you experience more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, be sure to seek medical help.