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Edited by: Adolfo Andrade-Cetto, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico Reviewed by: Jürg Gertsch, University of Bern, Switzerland Ashwell Rungano Ndhlala, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa Ildikó Rácz, University of Bonn, Germany *Correspondence: Arno Hazekamp a.hazekamp@bedrocan.nl Specialty section: This article was submitted to Ethnopharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology Received: 25 January 2016 Accepted: 11 April 2016 Published: 27 April 2016 Citation: Hazekamp A (2016) Evaluating the Effects of Gamma-Irradiation for Decontamination of Medicinal Cannabis. Front. Pharmacol. 7:108. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00108 ORIGINAL RESEARCH published: 27 April 2016 doi: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00108 Evaluating the Effects of Gamma-Irradiation for Decontamination of Medicinal Cannabis Arno Hazekamp * Head of Research and Education, Bedrocan International BV, Veendam, Netherlands In several countries with a National medicinal cannabis program, pharmaceutical regulations specify that herbal cannabis products must adhere to strict safety standards regarding microbial contamination. Treatment by gamma irradiation currently seems the only method available to meet these requirements. We evaluated the effects of irradiation treatment of four different cannabis varieties covering different chemical compositions. Samples were compared before and after standard gamma-irradiation treatment by performing quantitative UPLC analysis of major cannabinoids, as well as qualitative GC analysis of full cannabinoid and terpene profiles. In addition, water content and microscopic appearance of the cannabis flowers was evaluated. This study found that treatment did not cause changes in the content of THC and CBD, generally considered as the most important therapeutically active components of medicinal cannabis. Likewise, the water content and the microscopic structure of the dried cannabis flowers were not altered by standard irradiation protocol in the cannabis varieties studied. The effect of gamma-irradiation was limited to a reduction of some terpenes present in the cannabis, but keeping the terpene profile qualitatively the same. Based on the results presented in this report, gamma irradiation of herbal cannabis remains the recommended method of decontamination, at least until other more generally accepted methods have been developed and validated. Keywords: medicinal cannabis, cannabinoids, terpenes, gamma-irradiation, quality control INTRODUCTION Because medicinal cannabis is often used by chronically ill patients affected by a weakened immune system, pharmaceutical regulations in countries such as The Netherlands and Canada specify that these products must adhere to strict safety standards regarding microbial contamination. When harmful microbes or fungal spores are inhaled during e.g., vaporizing or smoking, they may directly enter the bloodstream and cause opportunistic infections. Such contamination risks are not merely hypothetical: cases of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis associated with smoking unsafe cannabis are well established in the scientific literature (Llamas et al., 1978; Sutton et al., 1986; Marks et al., 1996; Szyper-Kravitz et al., 2001; Kouevidjin et al., 2003; Cescon et al., 2008; Bal et al., 2010; Ruchlemer et al., 2015). For those with compromised immune systems, such lung diseases could be even fatal (Hamadeh et al., 1988). Frontiers in Pharmacology | www.frontiersin.org 1 April 2016 | Volume 7 | Article 108

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