Scientists believe the cannabis supply chain could face further disruptions unless adequate screening processes are put in place.

Cannabis flower that has been exposed to COVID-19 May harbour the virus for at least seven days after contact, according to a research team for the Medicinal Genomics Corporation.

The researchers uncovered these findings after developing a tool to detect coronavirus in marijuana plants, after becoming concerned that nobody was monitoring the cannabis supply chain, despite the heavy amount of physical contact involved.

Human contact, sneezing or even breathing after curing may still present elevated fomite risk for oral or vaporized routes of administration. Given cannabis flower is an inhaled product that requires manual contact to grow and trim, we developed tools to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA within the background cannabis matrix.Medicinal Genomic Corporation Researcher, Yvonne Helbert

As many cannabis dispensaries have been categorised as “essential businesses” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers argue that safeguarding against potential coronavirus contamination is of the utmost importance.

Especially when you consider that some employees working in the cannabis industry have already tested positive for coronavirus, along with the fact that the industry does not have any supply chain screening processes in place to date.

Additionally, a fertiliser that is commonly used for cannabis cultivation—which is known as bat guano—has also been identified as a potential source of novel coronaviruses.

“While chances of cannabis supply chain contamination with SARS-CoV-2 are remote, the RNA of the virus is stable on unsterilized cannabis flower for over 7 days and may inform personal protective gear protocols or sterilization techniques to ensure a virus free production process,” Medicinal Genomic Corporation lead researcher Yvonne Helbert stated.

“The current COVID epidemic is a reminder of the importance of pre-emptive testing readiness, and we believe these methods can contribute towards such goals.”