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2016 Edit: Pleased to report that we have not heard reports of grit weed for quite some time. Not to say it has been eradicated, but it seems that the quality of cannabis is improving in the UK!

Here’s the situation: You need a smoke so you call your dealer but he’s running dry.  You ask around and get a number for somebody you don’t usually pick up off. You get your weed, get back to your house and look at what you’ve got – a tiny eighth that doesn’t smell that pleasant and is rock-f’ing-solid. Eurgh, welcome to the world of sprayed cannabis.

So I thought that I would try to find out what cannabis is sprayed with, why, when and where it can be contaminated and how this affects me and other consumers across the country. After all, somebody will end up inhaling it – it’s not just gonna going up in smoke all by itself.

The worrying situation in the UK today is that with continued prohibition there is no way to stop adulterated cannabis reaching millions of smokers every day, and the harms caused by the added adulterants is undoubtedly infinitely more dangerous than the cannabis itself.  There have been reports of micro-beads of glass, legally purchasable online, being found in cannabis – Talk to Frank has this to say on the matter:

  • The Department of Health has recently received information suggesting that batches of herbal and ‘skunk-type’ cannabis have been contaminated with microscopic glass-like beads (or possibly ground glass). Laboratory testing has since confirmed a number of cases from different parts of the country, in which cannabis appears to contain microscopic particles of glass.
  • Unconfirmed reports suggest that smoking the contaminated cannabis has been linked with complaints of sore mouth, mouth ulcers, chesty persistent coughs, and a tight chest lasting for a few days.
  • Government advice already makes clear that cannabis is a substance harmful to health. The risk of glass contamination adds an additional layer of risk of harm. Whilst the exact potential health harm from this contamination is not yet fully determined, inhaling hot glass into the mouth, throat, or into the lungs should clearly be avoided.

Whilst the Government’s advice that cannabis is a substance “harmful to health” is complete crap, the rest of the excerpt seems like genuine stuff – a rare feat for Frank, who usually falls short before real evidence, recycling propaganda and misinformation under guise of a respectable health-concerned service. But enough about Frank, there is another important issue at hand.

I found an excellent resource at www.gritweed.co.uk that contains lots of information about sprayed cannabis.  On the site it lists four types of ‘grit weed’:

– Large Glass Particle Contamination
– Industrial Etchant Spray Contamination
– Sugar or Sand Contamination
– Micro Contaminants (stealth grit)

I shudder to think what the long-term effects of inhaling this sort of smoke would be on a person.  It is a sad  situation that cannabis, one of the most benevolent herbs on the planet, with so many uses medically, spiritually and recreationally is being harmed in this way, like finding a dirty needle in a box of cereal  you were until that moment planning to eat from.  But an even sadder fact is that even if you know your weed is sprayed, unlike the needle in the cereal metaphor, chances are you’re still going to smoke it.

I’ve also come across another product which is being added to cannabis here in the UK.  It’s called Brix Plus.  Now the forums are divided on this issue – some people see the 100% organic formula as a bonus as it apparently improves yield and adds a sweet taste.  But the question has been raised whether smoking it is good for you, and people just don’t know.  Other forumers are angry that people are spraying their plants with it and think of them as cheating people out of money with the 22% extra yield you get from spraying the buds 10 days before harvest, 5 days before harvest and then soaking them in Brix+ when you crop before allowing them to air dry.  Here is some product information I found on the LCA forum:

Brix Plus is a unique formula designed to achieve maximum yield. Scientifically designed using only the best ingredients, Brix Plus is readily available for direct absorption into your favorite flower or herb. This 100% totally organic product contains the following naturally derived active ingredients: amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, tricantinol, enzymes and proven biological yield enhancer.

BRIX Plus:

• Adds Weight
• Improves Color
• Improves Taste
• Improves Yield
• Increases Maturation (source: http://bit.ly/gBLWCO)

My personal opinion is that it’s not a good idea to use Brix+, even though its harms seem negligible compared to glass beads and sand. What’s wrong with buds just the way God intended them?  Brix+ growers probably wouldn’t admit to it, so how do we measure the scale of cannabis being sprayed with this?

As a smoker who buys an eighth at a time (usually 2grams for £20-25 these days), I already feel ripped off enough spending a good portion of my wages each month on cannabis without it being 22% LESS because the grower has sprayed it with Brix+ or god-knows-what.

So now we have the worrying ‘what with?’ question out of the way. Let’s move on to why cannabis is sprayed.

As with all of the illegal drugs industry, the quote ‘it’s all about the profit’ comes to mind. Check out ‘Talk To Frank’ by Virus Syndicate for some relevant and funny listening.  We also have to remember that this is coupled with the increased risks growers face since cannabis was re-classified as a class B drug – so it is moving more and more into the hands of organised crime, who are not only more profit-driven than Joe Bloggs growing a few plants for him and his mates, but will not care about the dangers of contaminating cannabis in order to add to its value.

This is not even mentioning that they could in theory grow half the number of plants resulting in lower risks during production, then spray it with glass and have the same weight that they would have achieved at a higher risk and at more cost. With an ounce of high grade weed costing at least £200 in my area at the moment (I’ve heard up to £260!) the is a serious amount of money to be made in cannabis.  This makes it the perfect organised crime, and the only way to reduce putting money into the pockets of criminals in ways such as this is for the government to legalise and tax cannabis.

So the answer to ‘who sprays cannabis?’ seems in correlation to why it is sprayed, and I would think that in a lot of cases it would be organised profit-driven criminals that would contaminate cannabis. But you just can’t tell.  Anybody could be spraying their bud, as the products to do so with are freely available online, and that makes the problems even greater.  And since the cannabis you often pick up has gone through several levels of dealers just to meet you, it cannot be traced back to a verified source, and there is also a possibility that even if the grower did not spray it themselves, one of the many people between them and you as the consumer could have.

So where and when is cannabis sprayed?

Whilst doing some further research I discovered more worrying news at Errowid.org (http://bit.ly/glVu3P):

An Erowid crew member who was visiting the Netherlands had an interesting chat with a former coffee shop owner. He was told that the international demand for hydroponic “Buds from Holland” is enormous and that the shortage in the market is extreme…He was told that in response to the shortage, vacuum sealed cannabis from the Netherlands is increasingly diluted with a still unidentified “greenish powder”. According to the former coffee shop owner, the group of people who produce the adulterant have contacted most Dutch growshops already. The unknown powder is sold under the counter to growers.

The powder is supposed to be sprinkled on moist (not yet fully dried) cannabis. It absorbs moisture from the plant and then looks like THC crystals. After the buds and powder are fully dried they are vacuum-sealed, at which point it is difficult to detect that the filler material has been added. According to those who sell the material, it is possible to add 200 grams of the powder to a kilogram of cannabis.

The crew member was able to handle some of the mystery powder and view it under a microscope. It is described as looking like a bunch of tiny transparent soft crystals which swelled up and became perfectly round when water was added–as if it were a kind of powdered, water-absorbing gel. When the spheres were placed on a piece of tin foil and heated with a cigarette lighter they did not melt but burned.

We don’t yet know what this material is, nor how widespread the problem is.

So from this we can see that even in Holland cannabis can be sprayed to meet demand.  And there was me thinking that it was all done by money-hungry UK dealers.  It’s worth noting that the above excerpt is from 2005.

Gritweed puts a date on spring/summer 2006 as the start of reports of contaminated cannabis in the UK.  It states that a few isolated incidents started to occur, followed by a flood of contaminated cannabis over the next few years.  These days there can sometimes be no way of knowing if cannabis is sprayed without a microscope, as it could be ‘stealth sprayed’. (http://www.gritweed.co.uk/grit_4.htm)

This is why our government need to regulate cannabis (not just tolerate it), to the extent that things like this simply would not happen.  At the moment people may only have one choice of cannabis, from their local dealer.  If they were faced with buying cannabis from an unregulated source where it may possibly be contaminated or could purchase it legally through government-approved dispensaries which would they choose?  Undoubtedly the safe, trusted cannabis dispensary, a place they know will not be spraying their product in fear of losing their government-approved status.

So the only thing that will solve the above mentioned problems would be the Government taking charge and actually controlling cannabis.  That is the only foreseeable way, except people growing themselves to guarantee no adulterants in what in its pure form is one of the most benevolent substances known to man.

How long will it be before the long-term health implications of people smoking contaminated cannabis begin to be noticed?

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