Moldy Weed 101: Can It Be Fixed & How Risky Is Smoking It?

moldy weed visual inspection

The question of whether moldy weed is safe to smoke is ultimately a matter of health – and boy, leave it to health-related topics to get people all amped up and at each other’s throat with extreme views on each end of the spectrum! (Although politics and religion tend to do darn well in that area too.)

The internet is like the Wild West of information. You can find almost anything, from downright evil stuff to life-changing magnificent opportunities. And around every corner lurks a duel between keyboard warriors with irreconcilable differences.

So – you’re wondering whether you can or should (!) smoke weed that has mold on it. Or maybe you’re not even sure whether it contains traces of mold. It just looks or smells suspicious… Which leaves you wondering what’s the risk in giving it a go anyway.

Why marijuana has mold

If buds have grown mold, it has to be due to one of four reasons:

  • you’re not smoking it fast enough
  • you purchased someone else’s problem
  • you harvested a moldy plant
  • you did a poor job curing/drying/stashing it

Alright, I’ll admit the first point is mainly there to add a tiny spark of humor to a frustrating topic but it’s no less true.

As for the second one, whoever is selling marijuana damn’ well knows whether it’s moldy. So if the moldy buds were purchased: Yikes. Unfortunately, that means someone hustled you. Guess you’ll be drawing your own conclusions as to where to shop next.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the first two reasons for moldy weed, but the third and fourth can be discussed in more detail.

Preventing mold when growing weed

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to mold overtaking marijuana plants, we aren’t powerless! There are things you can do which, when done right, will make a big difference in keeping the grow mold-free.

More on the strategies you can use to avoid becoming a target for mold in the first place: How to prevent mold when growing cannabis.

However, if mold is already there, you’re left to face the harsh reality of damage control. In this case, taking back control means saying good-bye to a portion of what would otherwise have been a promising harvest. That’s rough. But not as rough as smoking moldy weed.

Get rid of the infection, whether it’s affecting a single plant, a portion, or an entire grow. In the first two cases, failure to be relentless enough to cut losses will cause an entire batch of weed to be moldy. In the last one, experts agree that starting fresh is the only way.

Can’t help but be tempted by your moldy harvest? Then please be sure to dig for some decent information first (of the kind we’re aiming to provide below) and become aware of the potential health risks.

Aftercare: drying/curing/preservation issues

Flower needs to be dried and cured before use and it is for good reason this step is thought to be at least as important as the growing itself.

To take this one step further, let’s say you’ve done everything right during both the growing and the drying phases. After all that, mold can still sneak in and annihilate an entire jar of curing herb. It means the buds probably weren’t dry enough after all.

You’ve likely heard of the classic way to cure weed in a glass jar. In such a closed environment, cannabis will ‘sweat’ which requires opening the lid very regularly to let it breathe. Doing so every few hours during the first week at least is vitally important to prevent issues with mold.

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The Dutch seed bank Royal Queen Seeds recommends curing in brown paper bags. For lack of personal experience with this method, I can’t say much about it but it sounds like something to try!

How To Determine If Weed Is Moldy

Mold on buds can be tricky to identify. We’ll cover the visual clues, smell, and taste.

There are obvious signs, such as big, puffy blobs of fuzz in various colors or anything slimy or mushy, not to forget a rotten stench. Some signs of mold are gross enough to remove any doubt; others are harder to pinpoint.

Trichomes or mold: how to tell the difference

A common beginner’s mistake is to confuse mold with trichomes. That’s understandable since both look white-ish and are visible on the outside of the cannabis flower.

If you’re unsure whether nuggets are either laden with trichomes or infested with mold, holding them under a blacklight should help because it lights up mold spores. They’ll become bright green and quite distinctive.

No access to a blacklight right this minute? No worries – there are other ways to tell apart mold and trichomes. A magnifying glass helps, but if no tools of any kind are on hand all of this should be more or less visible with just your bare eye.

The first thing to note is that trichomes are distributed evenly. Mold typically does not form a perfectly dispersed dusting that is located as evenly over the buds as the trichomes. Trichomes are part of the plant, after all, with the mold being an external addition.

Next, keep an eye out for the difference in texture. Trichomes are resinous, whereas mold up-close resembles something fuzzy, furry, cobwebs, or thread.

Moldy weed scent & flavor

Saying moldy weed smells like mold isn’t going to be all that helpful, I guess. Marijuana’s different strains’ terpene-laden fragrances can be complex, making any scent that doesn’t belong all the more challenging to sniff out.

How do you discern mold when your nose is already bouncing all over the place between wafts of musk, earth, skunk, sweet fruit, citrus fruit, berries, cedar, or even gasoline? That’s just to name a few – and let’s not forget that not everyone experiences even these supposed “good” marijuana smells as pleasant.

The scent of mold and mildew in/on cannabis flower can veer on something like wet grass, hay, or even urine. Even if you don’t recognize any of those rather pronounced ones, a distant musty or stale odor you can’t quite place is usually a red flag.

Moldy weed can hit you in the face with an unpleasant fragrance that leaves no doubt about its funkiness. If that’s the case – great. Not great news, obviously, but bonus points for unambiguity. With taste and smell being closely entwined, you bet it won’t taste nice either.

Less great is when you’re not quite sure how or where to place a scent. Maybe it is vaguely odd but who’s to say it isn’t part of this strain’s properties?

In that case, you may want to:

  • use additional senses/tools and not rely on scent alone
  • use UV light, a microscope or other magnifying tool, or even
  • ask for other people’s opinions – because someone with more experience may have valuable insights.

Can you smoke moldy weed?

Nobody likes to see their flower go to waste. Ultimately, it’s a matter of risk versus reward. While the pain of throwing out otherwise perfectly fine buds is very real, your health is not worth taking a gamble with.

There allegedly are ways “fix” moldy cannabis flower but the TL;DR is unambiguous: it’s not a good idea.

As for involving others, it may be obvious that everyone should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves what to do. Friends don’t let friends smoke moldy weed.

Even if the stash is worth a good sum, are you comfortable entrusting the health of your lungs to user anonymous76, who explains enthusiastically to his/her forum mates that a rinse following certain directions clears weed from mold?

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With that said, I bet you’re still going to keep reading to get the rundown of ways to save and recoup moldy buds. No one blames you for fostering a spark of hope. Just don’t skip the part about why it’s not safe, hm?

How to get rid of mold on (cured) weed

If and when people choose to try to get rid of mold on weed – either before, during, or after curing – it is usually by means of the so-called water curing method. Variations come up, such as water + baking soda or water + peroxide.

Water Curing

Weed needs to be submerged in water completely (with whatever you come up with the keep it “under” at all times) and then rinsed once every 24 hours. The water coming out of the jar will be dirty and murky for the first few days but gradually become less and less so. When the water comes out clear for a few days in a row the buds are (allegedly!) mold-free. At this point, they’ll, of course, have to be dried.

The result: Crappy looking buds that make for – again, allegedly – a nice, smooth, perhaps even more concentrated smoke. Taste and fragrance will definitely be affected, if not annihilated.

Alas, it is highly debatable whether this process really gets rids of mold, mold spores, and mycotoxins. Even the proponents say weed that has been through such a ringer isn’t suitable for anyone other than themselves. To which I’d add those aesthetics hardly form the deciding factor – it would be plainly unethical to sell or offer up cannabis that could be contaminated with mold.

Facts versus Opinions

Here‘s a lengthy discussion about the topic, a rollitup thread that stretches over nine years. The back-and-forth covers many angles such as how much THC is lost in the water, and whether it really works to get rid of mold.

This goes without saying, but always be wary of the little truths bombs and ‘facts’ people drop. For example, someone will be adamant ethanol bathing is the solution, someone else replies by saying “you’re obviously unaware that certain mold types feed off of the sugar in ethanol”. Always do your own research before checking off opinions as truths.

A few more paraphrased quotes:

“Being completely underwater could kill mold since it is a living organism and can not survive in an anaerobic environment.”

In light of what I’ve learned so far during the research for this article, the person who makes this statement doesn’t know simply killing the mold doesn’t get rid of the toxic waste (mycotoxins) produced by said mold.

“If all cannabis samples were subjected to testing, 99 percent of them would show some trace of mold spores. They are omnipresent on all living things. The question is: What is the acceptable threshold for human consumption?”

“Traces of mold (of the “omnipresent” kind) are nothing to worry about, but if you have visible mold I would never smoke it. It’s stupid to do so and poses a very serious health risk.”

Mold exposure during handling of cannabis

That’s not to say opinions can’t be valuable and/or true, or contain interesting insights, such as this one:

“If you don’t mind the taste of dead moldy bits, have at it. Your risk is working with the infected material and inhaling live spores.”

That the inhalation of spores while handling moldy cannabis is indeed something to be concerned with, which you’ll find confirmed in this medical extract.

The patient had been smoking home-grown cannabis for decades of his life (for pain management). A pulmonary fungus ball or aspergilloma was surgically removed from his lungs. The team of treating physicians were not sure whether his aspergillosis-related health problems were the result of smoking cannabis or handling it.

Every once in a while, someone gives their two cents and those two cents are clearly worth their weight in gold:

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can you safely smoke moldy weed
water cure moldy bud
why moldy weed is not safe

For reference, the links in the image above: Polar versus non-polar mycotoxins and Extracting mycotoxins with water – can that work?

Using moldy buds to make edibles, extract, or hash

“Eat instead of smoke buds with signs of mold” is an approach that gets a fair amount of airtime in discussions. But just because some people say it’s a solution doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good one.

Sure, there is a difference between being subject to the digestive system versus going straight into the lungs but as far as the ingestion of (traces of) mold goes, there are similar concerns as with smoking:

  • It may or may not cause issues
  • It depends on the type of mold; some are more toxic and harmful than others
  • and those with a compromised immune system are most at risk to experience problems.

At best, nothing bad will happen. Less great outcomes involve nausea/diarrhea, as with certain food molds. At worst, you’re ingesting various levels of mycotoxins (the toxic secretions of mold), which I didn’t look into any further than this quote because it’s convincing enough.

Mycotoxins can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat to both humans and livestock. The adverse health effects of mycotoxins range from acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer.

Source: World Health Organisation

If this approach specifically interests you, you may also want to check out this thread. Aside from it being the usual tug of war between the pro and con sides of the table, even some who are in favor of making bubble hash from moldy marijuana do acknowledge two things:

a) the importance of knowing which type of mold you’re dealing with since some are definitely toxic, and

b) that you’ll want to use an old bubble bag because otherwise any future batches can and will get contaminated.

The bottom line: are you in a position to get the material professionally tested to rule out toxicity? If not, health is worth more than a ton of moldy weed or any derived (and somehow less moldy) extract or hash. Or the most scrumptious pot brownie.

Moldy Weed – Conclusion: Be Sensible, Not Anxious

Now you’re probably thinking: ‘Hang on a second – I have without a doubt smoked weed from questionable sources in a near or distant past… and I’m perfectly fine.’

Absolutely. Most people have. Our goal here is not to incite panic. We’ve all done things (whether related to cannabis or not) that could have had less desirable outcomes in one way or another.

What you aren’t aware of can hurt you, even if it might not. Part of the beauty of life is that for any taken risk, you’re not necessarily served with the worst possible outcome! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to go about business more informed and vigilant once your sphere of understanding broadens to include certain risks. 

Being fully aware of a threat and choosing to swim right towards it anyway is a personal choice. There’s definitely a time and a place for such heroic actions; if you ask me, smoking moldy weed isn’t one of them. 

Featured image by Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash

By Felis Cannabis

Hi, Felis Cannabis here. This little corner of the web is my scratch pole. The legalize movement is growing, but not fast enough for me to give up the incognito status just yet. ;-) Let's keep at it! We should have the right to use any plant we choose.