BOSTON — Growing marijuana in Massachusetts is big business. By one estimate, it’s now the state’s largest agricultural crop surpassing even the iconic cranberry.
A plant disease once found primarily out west is now showing up in pot plants here and that’s raising concerns about how that could affect the local harvest.
Profound Naturals makes a full line of cannabis-infused products, including topical lotions and tinctures to be taken orally.
All their products require access to a steady stream of high-quality pot plants.
“Hop Latent Viroid has been an issue in many different cannabis cultivation facilities,” said Dr. Riley Kirk, a cannabis research scientist at Real Isolates in Beverly.
“The issue with Hop Latent Viroid is it can affect the plant’s potency,” explained Dr. Kirk. “It can stunt the growth of the plan and eventually it can even change the genetic make-up of the plant.”
Hop Latent Viroid presents a huge challenge to growers. Not only is it hard to detect visually before it’s too late, but it also spreads easily.
“We really want to use molecular tests to tell very early on if we can detect the virus before it’s too late and say oh, our plants are stunted or we see the visual aspects of the plant wilting and causing damage from that virus,” said Dr. Kirk.
Dr. Benjamin Caplan, an expert on medical marijuana and founder of EO Care, Inc. says Massachusetts consumers can still have confidence in what’s produced locally because of the state’s strict regulations.
“The standards for what people can put in their bodies, when it comes to cannabis, is stricter than OSHA standards for what you can have in a building that we work at in. Massachusetts goes much farther. They’re ridiculous and honestly it might be overboard, but when I consume a cannabis product from Massachusetts, boy do I know that I am safe.”
The stakes are high across the country to contain the virus.
According to one trade publication, marijuana is also the largest cash crop in Alaska and New Jersey, as well as Massachusetts.
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