How to Tell the Difference Between Mold and Trichomes
December 18, 2018

How to Tell the Difference Between Mold and Trichomes

You definitely don't want to confuse the two!
MarijuanaBreak Staff MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on December 18, 2018

Mold and trichomes

It is no exaggeration to say that moldy cannabis is potentially deadly. According to a report published in The Sacramento Bee in February 2017, doctors from UC Davis found potentially lethal bacteria and mold on samples from an astounding 20 dispensaries and weed growers in Northern California.

Although it is not likely to be fatal for healthy individuals, it is possible that users with weakened immune systems, such as patients with AIDS or leukemia, will expose themselves to deadly lung infections when they use moldy marijuana. It is now believed that at least two people have died from using weed containing mold.

Even if you are otherwise healthy, moldy marijuana could still cause you to become seriously ill. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand how to spot the signs of mold in your weed. Worryingly, a significant number of novice users have no idea how to differentiate between mold and the cannabinoid-rich trichomes that make weed so awesome. This guide aims to solve that issue and keep your lungs free of harmful bacteria.

What’s the Problem?

The main issue is that moldy marijuana and high-quality weed actually look similar! If you’ve only ever used mids cannabis, you probably won’t have this problem. However, premium grade bud is laden with glistening milky white trichomes which give your marijuana its unmistakable kick.

The trouble is, moldy weed also looks white at first glance. Even a powdery mildew infection causes leaves and buds to become covered in white specks. If you are a novice and don’t know a trichome from a hole in the ground, it can be tough to make the connection.

Even though many of cannabis’ chemical compounds are natural fungicides, the dense structure of certain strains makes them prone to infection. Kush strains, in particular, are particularly susceptible to mold and mildew. Therefore, any hybrid containing Kush automatically becomes vulnerable. Common pathogens in weed include:

  • Cladosporium
  • Aspergillus
  • Fusarium
  • White Mold

Overall, there are almost 90 species of fungi that attack your marijuana plants. Mold spores are irritatingly resilient. They can survive the heat of an oven when you ‘decarb’ your weed, and even the heat of the flames used to light up a joint or bowl. When you inhale moldy weed, the spores go straight to your lungs.

Certain molds release mycotoxins, some of which are known carcinogens. For example, the Aspergillus pathogen releases Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin. Chronic exposure to these toxins can result in health problems such as vomiting, nausea, coughing, inflammation, asthma, and lung irritation.

How to Differentiate Mold from Trichomes Using Your Five Senses

1 – Sight
Although moldy and high-grade weed can both be covered with white dots, you can spot the difference when you look a little closer. However, we recommend purchasing a magnifying glass to be 100% sure. When you can see the bud up close, you can spot trichomes because they are crystal or milky white with mushroom heads. The weed will be covered in them, but they stand out like a beacon.

In contrast, moldy weed will be furry and look ‘old.’ The mold on weed looks just like the mold you find on fruit and vegetables that have gone off. Under bright light, and with a magnifying glass, you will spot a hair-like fuzz that is white, brown, green, gray, or black. If your weed is ‘dusty’ looking, it is probably mildew. Another way to describe mold is that it resembles spider webs or white cotton candy.

2 – Smell
Weed’s terpenes are what gives it the distinct aroma. Marijuana strains can smell of spice, pepper, citrus, pine, or fruit. Research the strain you are purchasing to see if it has the ‘right’ smell. As long as your sense of smell is reasonable, you should have no problem identifying moldy weed.

However, if you are a novice, it isn’t easy to distinguish between weed’s earthy aroma and the musty smell of mold. If you get a scent akin to what you smell from a damp room or clothes that have not been dried properly, there’s a good chance that your weed is bad. An excessively sweet scent, coupled with a musty and damp aroma, is a sign that your marijuana has been exposed to too much moisture.

3 – Touch
In high-quality weed, you will find it easy to pull the nugs apart. If you trust the source and know that it is good marijuana, remember how it feels for future reference. If the weed feels crumbly and has compressed nugs, it is low-grade cannabis.

4 – Sound
Bizarrely, you can even use your ears to determine the quality of marijuana. When buds are correctly dried and cured, they make a crisp ‘snapping’ sound when you pull them apart. It is a sign of low moisture content which is precisely what you want in cannabis. If you find it hard to pull the buds apart, and they don’t make much of a noise, it is a sign of a high moisture content, which equates to badly dried weed. Obviously,this also increases the risk of mold growth.

5 – Taste
Hopefully, you will be able to determine moldy and/or bad weed long before taking a ‘taste test.’ If you get this far, it should be reasonably easy to tell the difference between high-quality bud and Mexican brick weed. Good marijuana offers a smooth and easy feeling. Bad cannabis tastes like crap and hits you with coughing fits. Unless it is a strain such as Strawberry Cough, which is known for making users cough, you have bad weed in your hands.

Final Thoughts on Moldy Marijuana

Cannabis has a shelf life of many months as long as it is dried and cured correctly. Ideally, it will be hung upside down to dry for several days and then stored in airtight glass containers when the moisture level is low enough. When you get it right and store it properly, your weed should last for at least six months, if not longer.

However, when marijuana isn’t dried properly or thoroughly enough, it is possible for mold to form. Learn how to spot it because moldy weed can be deadly if you have a weak immune system.

Make sure you research marijuana standards in your region. Unfortunately, without uniform testing standards, there is an enormous disparity between the quality of weed testing in different areas, even within the same state. Finally, make sure you only purchase marijuana from dispensaries and brands that are known to quality test their plants for signs of pathogens and molds. Otherwise, you could be playing Russian Roulette with your health.

Article Sources:
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