Contaminated weed can kill, and it just did

Contaminated weed can kill, and it just did

VicesOctober 30, 2017 By Reilly Capps

Marijuana is like Minecraft: you can't die easily from it.

(Of course, folks have used cannabis and jumped off balconies and shot their wives. But the marijuana didn't directly kill; poor decisions did.)

Yet even though the science is overhwlmingly in favor of marijuana not being able to cause death in humans, researchers in California now claim a cancer patient died from it — or at least from a fungus on it that got into their lungs.

Ian McHardy is an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, who helped sleuth out the mystery and wrote a paper on his findings.

His team's conclusion surprised folks who generally believe that marijuana is safer than a pillow fight in a bouncy castle.

"It doesn't even occur to a cancer patient that something they're inhaling could actually contain some harmful pathogens," McHardy told us.

For cancer patients already struggling, McHardy says it's better to cook the cannabis first, since heat kills bacteria and mold.

McHardy is careful to say the fungus that killed the patient wouldn't disturb an 18-year-old high school soccer player or a 34-year-old firefighter. But for someone with cancer who is fragile already, it can literally mean life or death.

But …

Other researchers call baloney on the whole "pot fungus killed someone" story.

Jahan Marcu is the senior scientist for Americans for Safe Access, which fights for cannabis rights for sick people. Blaming a patient's death on cannabis fungus, Marcu says, "Sounds like people trying to demonize the plant."

That patient might have inhaled the mold from anywhere: shower basins, cigarettes, an apple, or so his argument goes. When you're as sick as these cancer patients, half the world's germs are potential assassins.

Marcu insists marijuana is safe. There's only been two or three other reported cases of fungus infections from cannabis in the past 20 years; none of them fatal.

But …

Kymron deCesare, the Chief Research Officer at Steep Hill Labs, who also studies fungus in cannabis, says that Marcu is covering up weed's dirty deed. deCesare says he's seen DNA evidence the fungus that killed came from weed, not a gym locker or an apple. Any group, such as Marcu's, denying that weed fungus kills is "a bunch of bozos." 

"They don't want anything bad to come out about cannabis because they want it to go legal so bad," deCesare says. "The truth is that a lot of cannabis is contaminated and it's hurting people. It's dirtier than other food and drugs." 

What can help cannabis get clean? All three scientists agree: legalize it. Then the USDA will put its stamps of approval on it after passing regulatory protocols. 

If cancer and AIDS patients are scared about fungus, Marcu says, they don't have to cook it. To be safe, they should buy from authorized pot shops which have to inspect for mold per state guidelines, and not from a black market guy down the alley.

It's still safe to keep telling your pot-hating friends about weed's clean record. It's never killed anyone.

But the fungus on pot? That's roughly as guilty as O.J.

Because, yes, no one saw him do it. But DNA don't lie.