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Your opinion: Gamma radiation for decontamination of medicinal cannabis

It is no news that gamma radiation is utilized by companies that produce medicinal cannabis flowers in countries with national medicinal cannabis programs, such as The Netherlands and Canada. A recent study, published by Arno Hazekamp, Head of Research and Education at Bedrocan International BV, has sparked a discussion again, because the procedure remains controversial.

Pharmaceutical regulations demand gamma radiation treatment of herbal cannabis in order to meet strict safety standards regarding the (possible) microbial contamination of the plant. A study named “Evaluating the Effects of Gamma-Irradiation for Decontamination of Medicinal Cannabis” has analysed four different strains of cannabis, produced by Bedrocan, before and after the radiation process, and has tested changes in terpenes, cannabinoids and moisture content.

While no changes in THC, CBD nor moisture content of the medicinal cannabis could be identified, the research showed damage to a few terpenes. “Some terpenes are reduced, but no new compounds are formed. This means terpenes are evaporated to some extent, but not degraded into new compounds. Gamma irradiation somehow accelerates the evaporation just a little bit, but does not kill or destroy your cannabis.”, Hazekamp suggests.

The study further concluded that gamma radiation remains the safest and most efficient technique to make sure patients, especially those that with compromised immune systems, receive a safe product. The original, full length research article, including discussion and conclusion, can be found here.

Patients’ organizations react to the procedure of gamma radiation

However, patients, consumers and activists remain sceptical and express concerns about gamma radiation.

According to the research of patients’ organizations, like Canadians for Safe Access, one of the side effects of gamma radiation is the production of a new type of chemicals, which don’t occur naturally. Cancer-producing chemicals can develop as well, when fat is exposed to the procedure.

Derrick Bergman (known from Encod and VOC) has published a paper with the clear title “Medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands: most patients prefer coffeeshop over pharmacy”. In the document he expresses that some patients claim gamma radiation has negative effects on the quality of medicinal cannabis, while Bedrocan states that the process is a demand of the Office of Medical Cannabis.

The Dutch patients’ group PGMC (Stichting Patiënten Groep Medicinale Cannabis Gebruikers) points out that said study is missing the answer to one very important question: What happens to the irradiated products when vaporized/smoked or eaten?

In this article, we have collected a range of different opinions on this subject for you. Please feel free to share yours with us and the Sensi Seeds audience.

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Gamma radiation for decontamination of medicinal cannabis – a collection of different quotes

It’s also important to remember that gamma-irradiation is not just done without good reason. It is meant to prevent the potential greater harm of infecting a patient with harmful microbes. In my paper several sources are cited where this actually happened. It is weighing two ‘bad’ choices (risk of infection vs. irradiation) and picking the most sensible one.We should all hope for the development of new sterilization techniques for cannabis in the near future. – Hazekamp reasons on news.liftcannabis.ca [x]

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…Gamma irradiation produces un-natural compounds (ionizing radiation causes a multitude of chemical changes)… – Reverend Ryan says on leafscience.com [x]

Why the obligatory Gamma radiation? And what is the effect? – says James Burton, Founder of the Dutch medicinal cannabis program [x]

You are constantly irradiated by the sun. If you don’t tan, there is no problem. Something that is irradiated to kill germs DOES NOT become radioactive – otherwise everyone who goes outside into the sun would be a health hazard when they came in – not to mention a mass of cancer! – D. J. Walters commented on cbc.ca [x]

I don’t think irradiation will dissuade customers. There will be some initial grumbling and outrage, but it will be eventually accepted as the norm. Most of us use dried spices when we cook and that’s all irradiated. I don’t think it will be the issue that kills the program. Wouldn’t a blind test be a fun thing to try on this issue? – leaffan commented on rollipup.org [x]

Does radiating cannabis with gamma rays have an effect on the compounds? No, it just sterilizes any seeds. – Steve Harris said on quora.com [x]

RADIATION. I have never known a home grower that needed to use this kind of poison. Just another reason NOT to get your medicine from these people. Are they going to tell the patients if it’s been radiated or not? – Bmunro commented on cbc.ca [x]

Gamma irradiation does not eradicate mould spores… This is perhaps the biggest misconception about this unholy and unsafe procedure and now also proven to be ineffective too. So patients in the NL don’t only suffer from ineffective cannabis .. but from ineffective gamma radiation perpetrated on an inferior product and then put in unsterile inadequate packaging too. This is a crime and torture! – Jackie Woerlee commented on marijuanapatients.org [x]

I wasn’t in favor of the gamma ray. – James Burton has a clear stance on the topic

What’s the point of irradiating medicine when the natural thing with organic supplement is better than what’s in our tobacco?? … – pfk 182 commented on rollipup.org [x]

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I develop X-ray based irradiators for use in biological studies. The recent market development of medical marijuana has begun to look into treating marijuana as a standard agricultural product. I will not go into GMO vs Organic as I am not an expert on the subject. However; I can speak to say that irradiating organic material does not make the product radioactive. This is a common misconception among the general population which is simply not true. Irradiating organics is not the practice of sprinkling radioactive material onto the product. This does not happen. But it is using the energy release from a radioactive source in order to sterilize and kill the bacteria. Radiation is just invisible light with a different wavelength than what you get out of your flashlight. Your concerns are the same as fearing to eat something you pulled out of the microwave because the microwave radiation would poison you. Consider the sun, if you stand outside in the sun for a period of time your skin will burn. But if you go inside, away from the sun’s UV radiation, then you don’t continue to burn. Same concept. The alternatives to gamma/X-ray are using UV, which alters the chemical composition of the weed as well as the effects. Or chemical sterilization. – Robert commented on marijuanapatients.org [x]

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Prairie Plant Systems uses a sterilization process called gamma irradiation to ensure its product is free of bacteria and mold. And that indeed involves exposing it to radiation. On the other hand, irradiation is a common and approved method for sterilization, especially in the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries where quality control is tightly regulated. …ensuring that medical marijuana is toxin-free is important for patients with immune system deficiencies. Bedrocan B.V., the only legal producer of medical marijuana in the Netherlands, also irradiates its product. – states an article on leafscience.com [x]

Wow, so gamma radiation does convert fats/acids/terpenes in cannabis, which then makes it carcinogenic. Great – says Drifter on weedforum.eu [x]

And this is one of the reasons I am returning to black market weed. It’s a higher quality, lower price, more reliable service and not radioactive… – Steve commented on marijuanapatients.org [x]

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Gamma radiation for decontamination of medicinal cannabis – your opinion please!

Do you agree or disagree with the comments above? What are your thoughts on gamma radiation for the decontamination of medicinal cannabis? Are you for, or against it? Let us know what your point of view is. You can do so by commenting on this post in the section below.

To a fair, respectful debate!

Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.

Gamma spectrometry and chemical characterization of ceramic seeds with samarium-153 and holmium-166 for brachytherapy proposal

Ceramic seeds were synthesized by the sol-gel technique with Si:Sm:Ca and Si:Ho:Ca. One set of seeds was irradiated in the TRIGA type nuclear reactor IPR-R1 and submitted to instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), K(0) method, to determine mass percentage concentration of natural samarium and holmium in the seed as well as to determine all existing radionuclides and their activities. Attention was paid to discrimination of Si-31, Ca-40, Ca-45, Ca-47, Ca-49, Sm-145, Sm-155, Sm-153 and Ho-166. A second sample was submitted to atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) also to determine samarium and holmium concentrations in weight. A third sample was submitted to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to qualitatively determine chemical composition. The measured activity was due to Sm-153 and Ho-166 with a well-characterized gamma spectrum. The X-ray fluorescence spectrum demonstrated that there is no discrepancy in seed composition. The maximum ranges in the water of beta particles from Sm-153 and Ho-166 decay were evaluated, as well as the dose rate and total dose delivered within the volume delimited by the range of the beta particles. The results are relevant for investigation of the viability of producing Sm-153 and Ho-166 radioactive seeds for use in brachytherapy.

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Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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