The Electron beam (E-beam) irradiation process is a technique where electrons are used to bombard a substance. This can be used for a variety of procedures, but ultimately it is seen as a way to quickly and efficiently sterilize something without having any chemical residue left over. This technique is commonly used for food products or medical supplies, but what about cannabis? Does E-beam irradiation have any negative consequences when used with cannabis?
The Effects of E-Beam Irradiation
E-beams are produced by accelerators that provide a constant stream of highly charged electrons to be used on various products. These products that are being sterilized pass through the beam, and as the electrons are absorbed, there are various changes that occur within the organic material. Chemical bonds, DNA, and other reproductive systems are damaged, but the product is completely sterilized. For organic materials like food, this can help to extend shelf life and limit its decomposition. With Cannabis, though, where the molecular structure plays a vital role in the potency and quality, this irradiation may provide more negative consequences.
E-Beam Irradiation and Cannabis
The use of E-beams has been proven to be a cheap, effective way of minimizing unwanted fungi or pathogens in cannabis. For cannabis users who are immunocompromised, this may be ideal for sterilizing their cannabis before consumption. However, the chemical changes that occur during irradiation do make a difference. Cannabinoids are generally unaffected, but terpenes, which tend to be more fragile, can see as much as a 20% drop following irradiation. Research into terpenes’ effect on cannabis is still ongoing, but they have been proven to alter both flavor and psychoactive experiences. For certain people, this may be an unwanted consequence. Furthermore, terpenes play a role in the entourage effect, and the reduction in terpenes, especially monoterpenes, is noticeable when consuming irradiated cannabis.
Solutions for Discerning Consumers
People consume cannabis for a variety of reasons. Individuals who use cannabis for medicinal purposes may prefer that their cannabis has been sterilized with E-beam irradiation. Those who consume cannabis recreationally may not care, but they may also prefer getting the fullest experience, to better create the entourage effect. For these individuals, it is likely that the cannabis market will accommodate them by advertising non-irradiated products. This may create a market similar to organic produce, which appeals to some people but is not right for everyone.
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