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Hash Users Smoking "Dangerous Amounts of Fecal Bacteria"

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Apr 04, 2019   
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Most cannabis sold on the streets of Madrid is not suitable for human consumption, according to a new study. 

Samples of unregulated drugs from the Spanish capital often contained dangerously high levels of E.coli bacteria and aspergillus fungus. 

The analysts found that hashish wrapped up in plastic “acorns” was the most contaminated, which is unsurprising given the reported region of the body they were smuggled inside. Around 40 percent of these samples had a fecal aroma, according to José Manuel Moreno Pérez, the study's lead author.

Speaking to the Spanish newspaper El País, Pérez explained that the acorns were more likely to be contaminated because the cannabis samples were wrapped up in plastic packets and swallowed by the drug smugglers. These contraband-containing couriers would then “take a laxative and expel” the pellets in a toilet. 

Pérez, a pharmacologist at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, sourced the cannabis directly from street dealers. His research team then sorted the 90 samples by shape, depending on whether they resembled “acorns” or “ingots”, to see if shape and packaging were variables for contaminates, which they were. 

In a research paper published in the journal Forensic Science International, the team detail how a significant 93 percent of the acorn-shaped samples contained threatening levels of E.coli bacteria, compared to 29.4 percent of the ingot samples. While most varieties of E.coli bacteria are relatively harmless, some can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea, and vomiting.

Around 10 percent of cannabis samples were also covered with aspergillus, a dangerous fungus that can cause chest infections and other illnesses in people with weaker immune systems. 

Given the high risks of both these microorganisms, the researchers concluded that 88.3 percent of samples were not suitable for consumption. The authors are now calling the situation a “public health issue” and warning those with weaker immune systems, such as cancer patients, to avoid street-sold cannabis all together. 

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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