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The importance of microbial testing

What we've learned and why we're sharing our story to make the cannabis industry even better

I couldn’t believe it.

No one in the office could believe it. We were all freaking out, and completely stunned to see the results that had just come in from the lab.

One of our Thinc Pure products had just tested positive for E. coli.

What happened?

Washington law has required potency testing on cannabis plants and products, for both medical and recreational use, for some time now. However, in July, a law was passed also requiring microbial testing as well.

As a result, we have been testing our products in compliance with the laws. We weren’t too worried — after all, using clean, safe, pure materials is one of our defining principles. Which is why we were so shocked to discover that a batch of rosin we submitted for testing came back positive for E. coli.

We buy all of our trim from reputable growers with whom we have strong relationships. We know that the trim we get from them is high quality and grown responsibly. And even so, this problem still came up.

Though it wasn’t confirmed whether it was a harmful strain of E. coli or not (not all E. coli is the same), we of course didn’t let that batch of rosin leave our office. Since then we have tested every single product produced, and we haven’t had any other issues.

We’re confident that it was a bad batch of trim that we received; it was tainted before we ever received it, and it was the microbial testing of the product that kept contaminated trim from getting processed and sold.

That’s why we know — from our own experience — that testing is so important, and why we as an industry have to keep advocating for our customers and doing what we know will keep them safe.

So in this post, I want to share the lessons we have learned about the importance of microbial testing and the best ways that you can keep yourself healthy as a consumer.

How bacteria and microbes develop on cannabis products

Like any organic matter, cannabis plants are susceptible to their environments. Moisture and temperature can affect the plant during transport and processing, which is why we are always so careful about our processes and making sure we are handling the cannabis with care.

However, the E. coli that we found in our rosin was there before we ever got a chance to stop it; it was literally in the soil where the plant grew and contaminated the plant. There was nothing we could have done — besides test it before sending it out to make sure we didn’t sell a harmful product to our customers, of course.

Harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella that end up in cannabis plants often get there from fertilizer. This means they’re in the plant long before producers like us get our hands on it.

Some of the most common types of fertilizer used to grow marijuana — the ones that help cannabis plants grow the best — can contain some materials that can also be quite harmful to consumers of those cannabis plants. These fertilizers contain bat guano, or cow manure from grain-fed cows, which can transmit microbes that are harmful to human health and are not always easy to remove during normal production processes, especially if you’re not looking for them.

How you can stay safe

It can be scary to think about the things that can appear when your cannabis gets tested. But that is why testing is so important — we need to be extremely cautious with the things we buy and sell that are going to go into people’s bodies. It has to be 100% pure.

While it’s our job to make sure our products are clean and safe, there are things you can do to keep yourself healthy too. Here’s what you can do to shop smart and safe:

First and foremost, only buy your cannabis products from companies who do testing. This is your health we’re talking about. While it may take an extra minute or two of thought or research before you buy, it will be worth it to make sure you’re ingesting a product that is pure and safe for you.

Second, get to know the companies that you buy from. Our industry is so new and unregulated that you really have to be a smart consumer and know who you are buying from. There are still so many companies that don’t comply with regulations or who choose to do things in the cheapest way for them, and not the safest way for you.

While we all are supposed to be doing things like testing (and most of us are) because it’s the law, there are so many things that aren’t laws yet, that companies are allowed to do even though they might not be the best for you.

A couple of good questions to think about:
– Does the company you’re buying from test their plants for pesticides?
– Do they use chemicals like butane or polyglycol to create their extracts, or something pure like CO2?

Finally, there are choices you can make about how to ingest your cannabis that will reduce your risk of harm from microbes.

CO2 extracted vapor oils are very safe to consume, not only because there are no harsh chemicals used during extraction, but also because bacteria is usually killed during processing.

On the other hand, rosin and bubble hash are not treated in processing — which some people view as a good thing. However, this can also mean that E. coli and Salmonella can survive since there’s very little to kill them during processing.

Dabbing rosin can kill off E. coli and Salmonella because of the high heats involved in dabbing; but simply smoking, vaping, or consuming compromised buds, bubble hash, or rosin won’t always achieve a heat high enough to kill off microbes.

Keep these tips in mind, but don’t think that being reckless with companies that don’t test will work if you’re just smart. There are still risks from ingesting and handling cannabis that could potentially be contaminated. If you dab rosin that’s tainted by E. coli, for example, you might not get E. coli; however, if the E. coli got on your hands at any point and you were to eat a sandwich without washing your hands first, you could possibly ingest the bacteria that way.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What we’re doing here at Thinc to keep you safe and healthy

After our E. coli scare, we sanitized our whole lab and all of our equipment. We also added a new step to our process that will sanitize all of the plant material we use before we turn it into Thinc Pure products. That way we can be sure to kill off all the mold and fungus spores, and help keep you safer.

We’ve also started incorporating microbe-killing processes, like using UV light, into our standard procedures.

This discovery was a shock. But it was a wake-up call for our whole industry. Every single one of our products is thoroughly tested, and we have never had a negative result besides this one. We truly believe this was a case of bad trim making its way to us — and luckily, testing made it possible for the dangers to be caught. We will be sure that this never happens again.

That is why we’re doing our part to spread the word about health and safety in our industry. We want to create products that make people happy and healthy — and we want everyone else to do that too.

We believe that laws and regulations on important things like testing keep people safe. While we are doing everything we can internally to engineer, innovate, and improve our work, we also want to be a voice standing up for the safety of our customers to every company creating cannabis products today too.

Everyone should be able to trust that the products they put in their body won’t harm them.

That’s why, even though it’s hard to share, we’re talking about our failures right along with our successes. It’s all with the goal in mind of making our products better, your lives healthier and happier, and our industry as safe and successful as possible.