Smoking Moldy Weed and How It Can Make You Sick

A classic case of botrytis a.k.a bud rot. Moldy cannabis should never be inhaled or smoked.
A classic case of botrytis a.k.a bud rot. Moldy cannabis should never be inhaled or smoked. /

Cannabis may have a robust safety profile with zero fatal overdoses on record, however smoking moldy weed can pose a serious risk to human health.

While you might have thought mold was reserved for unkempt showers or perishable food items, unwanted fungi can grow in your stash if you’re not careful. 

Don’t let this information send you into a panic, though. While moldy cannabis is definitely something to stay far away from, as long as you know how to identify it, you should have no trouble avoiding toxic fungi on your cannabis flower

How to Identify Moldy Weed

Spotting mold on an ancient loaf of bread is pretty straightforward: if your slice of toast looks like it’s wearing a wig, chances are you shouldn’t eat it. However, identifying fungi in your weed stash isn’t always as simple as you’d like it to be. 

A moldy cannabis sample will typically have a grayish-white coating. However, this coating can look similar to the all-important trichomes, those sticky, crystalline glands found on the leaves and buds of cannabis

There are many different types of mold in the world, but with cannabis, the most common forms found in the cannabis plant are powdery mildew (one of the most widespread plant diseases), botrytis (a.k.a., “gray mold” or "bud rot"), and white fuzzy mold (a.k.a. Sclerotinia) 

While trichomes have a shimmery, ethereal effect, cannabis mold has a more powdery appearance, as well as a distinct odor. Trichomes are what make your weed smell like weed, which can have many different scents depending on the terpene profile, but mold will have your weed smelling…well, moldy. The distinctive odor is often compared to that of a damp basement.

This is one reason why reliable, accurate lab testing is so important for legal cannabis products, and even then consumers will still want to know what to watch out for. Same thing if you’re buying cannabis from the informal market or growing your own – be vigilant about any moldy cannabis situations.

What Causes Moldy Weed?

white mold on cannabis
A good picture showing white mold next to cannabis trichomes. /

Moldy weed occurs from “moisture lock” – a.k.a., if harvested cannabis is not properly dried and cured before it’s stored or plastic-wrapped and packaged, that container becomes the ideal incubator for growing fungi. 

Cannabis plants are also susceptible to mold while they're still in the ground, requiring growers to be all the more vigilant with their crops.

Professional and responsible growers are well aware of this risk and take extra precautions to make sure mold does not happen. 

However, not all growers are knowledgeable about the risks of moldy weed (or they don't care), and since moist weed weighs more than dry weed, shady or incompetent growers may take advantage of the extra income without caring about the possibly hazardous ramifications. 

Storage is also a big deal. As a consumer, you need to be aware of how to properly store your stash to prevent mold from growing. Growers can do everything right, but if you’re not storing your cannabis in a safe, cool, dark, dry, airtight container, your weed runs the risk of being damaged. 

What Happens When To Your Body When Smoking Moldy Weed

If you’re a regular cannabis consumer, it’s important that you’re aware of the risks that go along with smoking or vaping moldy weed – especially if you reside in a state without legal access, or don’t know your cannabis farmer on a personal level. 

Perhaps one of the most unnerving details about what happens when you smoke moldy weed is that it affects consumers differently, depending on your body, health, atmosphere, and a number of other indicators. 

If you’re an overall healthy person, moldy weed likely won’t pose any massive threat to your wellbeing – but you’ll probably still experience unpleasant symptoms like excessive coughing, wheezing, lung irritation, or nausea, and you’re definitely still at risk to experience life-threatening symptoms. 

On the other hand, if you’re immunocompromised, have pre-existing issues with your lungs, or, most dangerously, are allergic to mold, smoking moldy weed can have very serious health consequences for you. 

However differently it may affect consumer to consumer, there’s no denying that smoking or vaping moldy weed is overall dangerous, unhealthy, and should be avoided at all costs. Here are some of the dangers you may incur if you happen to smoke moldy weed:

  • Sinus Pain/Congestion:

Inhaling mold will likely result in sinus pain or congestion, and even more so if you are allergic to mold. In some extreme cases, this may result in a persistent sinus infection.

  • Fatigue/Muscle Weakness:

This can be tricky to identify, since many strains of cannabis usually result in consumers feeling physically tired or sleepy – especially if you’re consuming large amounts. 

However, only you know your body, and if you’re experiencing a form of fatigue or weakness that you’re unfamiliar with, this might be from smoking moldy or otherwise contaminated cannabis. 

  • Brain Fog:

Another unsavory side effect of inhaling mold is brain fog. Again, this can be a little tricky to identify, since high amounts of THC can result in consumers feeling a bit “foggy.” 

However, there’s a noticeable difference between THC-fueled fogginess and actual brain fog, which can leave you feeling confused, disoriented, or at a loss for words. 

  • Persistent Coughing:

Okay...I know. Tricky to identify, right? Especially if you’re a newer consumer who coughs your lungs out every time you take a hit. However, if the coughing persists for some time after inhalation or is painful, this is a sign that something may be wrong. 

  • Chest Pain:

Again, if you’re coughing so hard and persistently that it’s painful, or you feel general pain or pressure in your chest after consuming, you may be a victim of moldy weed. 

  • Fever:

This only happens in rare, extreme cases, but if you believe you might have smoked moldy weed and you have a fever, you should see a doctor immediately. 

  • Mold Balls:

This also only happens in rare cases, but it is the worst reaction your body can have to moldy weed. 

If you aren’t careful, or are consuming large amounts of moldy weed, the fungal spores you inhale can snowball in your lungs, resulting in mold balls that you’ll likely need surgery to remove. This can lead to serious cases of pneumonia, and even be deadly. 

How to Be Preventative About Moldy Weed

There’s a lot of risk that goes along with smoking moldy weed, and although you may not experience serious, life-threatening side effects, it’s never a good idea to take a chance – no high is worth that!

Unfortunately, once your weed has been contaminated with mold, there’s no salvaging it. Desperate consumers have attempted cutting around the mold to get to the “good” part, but once mold has entered the chat, there isn’t a whole lot of “good” left. 

If you have reason to believe there’s something wrong with your weed, you’re probably right. It’s best to err on the side of caution and toss it, rather than take the massive risk. 

Luckily, there are a few measures to take to ensure your cannabis stays fresh, healthy, and mold-free:

  • Store your weed properly. To prevent moldy weed, your best defense is proper storage. Exposing cannabis to the wrong lighting, temperature, humidity, or oxygen levels can easily promote mold growth.

To combat this, use airtight containers (preferably dark glass or food-grade aluminum), and avoid storing your cannabis in the freezer or fridge. The low temperatures and moisture are too risky. You should also store your stash in a dark, dry place and be wary of excess humidity levels. 

  • Try to only purchase your cannabis from a trusted source who you know personally. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, especially if you reside in a region where cannabis isn’t fully legal, but if you can get your cannabis from someone you know personally and can trust, you minimize the risk of coming across moldy weed – or otherwise tainted product.
  • Always examine your weed before consuming – especially if you’ve had it for a while. The older your weed is, the more risk it has of developing mold if it hasn’t been stored properly. To avoid this and give yourself peace of mind, get into the habit of examining your flower before consuming. If you want to break up some of the cannabis material and give it a sniff, be careful about potentially inhaling mold spores through your nose.

Smoking moldy weed is never worth the risk, and you should never pass contaminated cannabis on to others. When in doubt, throw it out.

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