No one wants their pot to go up in smoke unless it’s being enjoyed. A plant disease is currently wreaking havoc on marijuana crops in Massachusetts and is threatening the area’s booming industry.
The plant disease was once found primarily out west but is now showing up in pot plants out east, which is raising concerns about how that could affect the local harvest. The disease known as Hop Latent Viroid is causing problems with cannabis plants across the region. The tricky part is that it’s often difficult to detect and also spreads relatively easily between plants.
“The issue with Hop Latent Viroid is it can affect the plant’s potency. It can stunt the growth of the plan and eventually it can even change the genetic make-up of the plant,” Dr. Riley Kirk, a cannabis research scientist at Real Isolates in Beverly, Massachusetts, said.
He added: “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.'”
Fortunately, according to Dr. Benjamin Caplan, an expert on medical marijuana and founder of EO Care, Inc., 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.”
According to one trade publication, marijuana is the largest cash crop in multiple states, including Massachusetts, Alaska and New Jersey. Hop Latent Viroid needs to be dealt with before it’s too late and a shortage arises as a result.