Fresh cannabis has been harvested and dried. However, as an organic material, it contains some moisture. As a user, you want it dried, but it should have enough wetness to be slightly spongy when pressed or squeezed.
Any organic material with moisture eventually invites mildew. Strangely, a little bit of mold is beneficial, but a little bit means yours is likely to attract more. As a customer or grower, you want to avoid mold and deal with it when it shows up.
Where mold comes from
Mold gathers and multiplies from spores in the air. It will stick to leaves and get caught in the hairs protruding from buds. These spores are everywhere, but you can reduce and prevent them when you farm your cannabis. Good farming, processing, and packaging will eliminate most mold, but you must look closely at any product you consider for purchase. The most common molds affecting cannabis plants are Botrytis and Powdery White mildew.
Botrytis appears on plants after heavy rain outdoors or on indoor plants raised in humid environments. This form of mildew begins and multiplies inside moist nugs before appearing where you can see it. They call it "bud rot" because it stays dormant until the environment triggers it, and when it gets going, it breaks through the bud's cell walls. When it shows up, your plants are in trouble. It would be best if you watched for yellowing leaves or grey colas. If the buds are dry and crumble, you will see the mold.
Powdery White mildew clings to every part of a plant, but it tends to cluster where leaves meet stems or stick to flowers and trichomes. The mold looks like sprinkled flour or confectioner's sugar. The mildew will draw water from leaves and flowers, leaving them dry and yellow if it takes over.
Sooty mildew is a different issue. It does not come from spores; instead, it is the sooty black secretion of aphids and whiteflies. If you see dark black patterns on your plant leaves, it is already active. As it covers the plant surfaces, it prevents photosynthesis, effectively destroying the growth.
So, what can growers do?
As a cannabis farmer, you must approach the planting, growing, and processing carefully. You must select durable strains, fertilize and irrigate your plants with nutrients that fight pests, and aerate the grow room or farm carefully and steadily.
Sativa strains and Sativa-dominant hybrids have developed with mold resistance. Choose strong strains known to resist mildew, such as:
Malawi Gold originates in hot, humid, subtropical ecosystems allowing it to evolve with high resistance. The strain is pure Sativa with up to 13% THC creating a pleasant euphoria without paranoia.
Columbia Gold comes from the mountains of Colombia. It is another landrace Sativa. Its 15% to 20% THC will give you a day of clarity and creativity, a little silly and giggly. Breeders have introduced it to many hybrids because of its mold-resistant genes.
Bangi Haze is a high Sativa hybrid with ancestry that evolved through Nepal's range of climates. With 70% Sativa and up to 15% THC, Bangi Haze flowers fast and grows strong with routine care.
Super Silver Haze is a prize-winning Sativa-dominant (80%: 205) hybrid recognized by farmers and producers as mold resistant. With a potent >23% THC, Super Silver Haze hits your head hard with a long-lasting haze that shadows creative energy.
Moby Dick has strong Sativa influences (75%: 25%), accounting for its whopping THC content testing to 27%. This strain will boost your mood with an intense euphoria lasting for hours.
If you are a farmer or home grower, you want to look for mildew at three stages:
As plants grow, they release moisture into the air. The more they grow and the bushier the vegetation, the more moisture they produce. Without adequate space and air circulation, your crop will invite mildew because of the stagnant humidity.
As cannabis approaches flowering, the buds increase sensitivity to mold. If plump, dense colas become discolored and fall apart at the touch, you may have bud rot. That requires you to pull that plant out, burn it to destroy the mold, and evaluate each of the area's plants.
As cannabis dries and cures, it remains vulnerable if you do not do it well. For example, you must open the storage containers regularly to release toxins and admit fresh air.
What can cannabis customers do?
Inhaling mold is risky. It can create respiratory problems, especially in those with pre-existing conditions like asthma. It is also dangerous for those allergic to a family of drugs related to penicillin.
You can smell it! Most dispensaries will let you open a jar to smell the weed inside. You can smell scores of aromas if you have a sensitive nose, but the moldy flower will smell like piss.
You can see it! Many customers carry a magnifying glass for a closer look at the product. They look for the mold's white powder, the sooty mildew coating, or "cobwebs" on the buds.
You can study it! The internet invites customers to research mold-resistant strains and news of health problems attributed to individual products and dispensaries. Where they have legalized cannabis, you will find more products with increasingly detailed labeling. It will help if you read the label carefully, looking for confirmation that the processor had secured third-party testing for mildew content.
Stay out of the weeds!
Smoking moldy cannabis presents multiple risks. People tear moldy houses apart. Inhaling the smoke irritates the lungs, sinuses, throat, and more. Mildew toxins leaching through the lungs to the blood system can lead to sepsis. It can be fatal for users pre-disposed to related health conditions.
These worst-case scenarios are more likely to occur among homegrown products than in commercially produced strains. Commercial cultivators have more control over nutrition, irrigation, and air circulation. Even the most resistant strains benefit from fertilization that fights pests and mold. Irrigation must not contribute to heat and humidity, and monitored air circulation must move the air to discourage spores' settling on plants.
Every cannabis user should know how to identify and avoid buying moldy cannabis to protect their health and safety and get their money's worth.