Scientists believe the cannabis supply chain could face further disruptions unless adequate screening processes are put in place.
Cannabis flower that has been exposed to COVID-19 May harbour the virus for at least seven days after contact, according to a research team for the Medicinal Genomics Corporation.
The researchers uncovered these findings after developing a tool to detect coronavirus in marijuana plants, after becoming concerned that nobody was monitoring the cannabis supply chain, despite the heavy amount of physical contact involved.
Human contact, sneezing or even breathing after curing may still present elevated fomite risk for oral or vaporized routes of administration. Given cannabis flower is an inhaled product that requires manual contact to grow and trim, we developed tools to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA within the background cannabis matrix. Medicinal Genomic Corporation Researcher, Yvonne Helbert
As many cannabis dispensaries have been categorised as "essential businesses" during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers argue that safeguarding against potential coronavirus contamination is of the utmost importance.
Especially when you consider that some employees working in the cannabis industry have already tested positive for coronavirus, along with the fact that the industry does not have any supply chain screening processes in place to date.
Additionally, a fertiliser that is commonly used for cannabis cultivation—which is known as bat guano—has also been identified as a potential source of novel coronaviruses.
"While chances of cannabis supply chain contamination with SARS-CoV-2 are remote, the RNA of the virus is stable on unsterilized cannabis flower for over 7 days and may inform personal protective gear protocols or sterilization techniques to ensure a virus free production process," Medicinal Genomic Corporation lead researcher Yvonne Helbert stated.
"The current COVID epidemic is a reminder of the importance of pre-emptive testing readiness, and we believe these methods can contribute towards such goals."
The researchers claim that the sensitivity of the test they have developed is comparable to nasopharyngeal swabs and other methods used for early coronavirus detection, which they believe could help to safeguard communities and ensure the stability of the cannabis supply chain.
However, the study also noted that the researchers only analysed irradiated samples of coronavirus, which may significantly shorten its shelf life due to "attenuated infectability".
Helbert and her team claim that at this point more research is still required to compare the stability of infectious and non-infectious virus samples on cannabis plants.
Luckily, thus far there have been no recorded instances of cannabis becoming contaminated with COVID-19, which suggests that the plant may be an ineffective host for the virus to incubate in.
This could be due to the lighting and curing process that cannabis typically undergoes during its journey from cultivator to retail outlet, which Helbert and her colleagues believe may prevent coronavirus from effectively replicating.
This pot stock could reach new heights in 2020 due to Coronavirus
The COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, and as global markets enter meltdown many cannabis companies are feeling the effects of capital crunch.
While the market crash will continue for some time, it represents a golden opportunity for investors who are capable of riding out the volatility until share prices rally.
Luckily, one pot stock has developed antimicrobial drug that can already treat two superbugs while limiting their ability to develop antibiotic resistance.
Investors can also start picking up shares at rock bottom prices, as global investor sentiment continues to dampen thanks to COVID-19.
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