A Conflicting Personality: Can Hyperaccumulating Plants like Cannabis and Hemp be Realistically Used as a Safe Source of Cannabinoids?
Cannabis and hemp are known to be avid hyper-accumulators of contaminants in the soil. That is why they have been used to clean up toxic waste sites where other kinds of remediation attempts have failed. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine in 1986, industrial hemp was planted to clean up the radioactive isotopes that had leaked into the soil and ground waters (ref 1). It has been reported that close to 400 botanical species including hemp have phytoremediation properties with the ability to absorb extremely high levels of metal contaminants out of the soil.
Of course, Chernobyl is an extreme example of heavy metal and radionuclide contamination, but as a result of normal anthropogenic industrial activities over the past few decades, including mining, metal refining/smelting, power generation and use of fertilizers, etc., heavy metal pollution has become one of the most serious environmental problems today. So with all the diverse and varied soil conditions used for growing hemp, it will be very difficult to eliminate these potential sources of contamination in order to reduce their impact on the plant’s biology.
So this white paper asks the question of whether hemp, which is predominantly grown outdoors and one of the best plants for soil phytoremediation purposes can realistically be used as a safe source of cannabis medicinal and consumer products?