The role of Water Activity in the Cannabis Industry

With the legalization of cannabis-based products for both medicinal and in some locations recreational use, has come the need to implement safety initiatives. Microbial contamination in either dried buds, extracted oils, or processed edibles can result in allergic reactions, respiratory complications, or foodborne illnesses. In addition, breakdown due to chemical reactions can result in changes in efficacy and potency. Water activity is an effective tool used in the food and pharmaceutical industries to maximize microbial, chemical, and physical stability. It provides this same safety and control to the cannabis market and it is important that cultivators and processors understand water activity and how to maximize its usefulness. Safety regulations for the cultivation and processing of cannabis-based products is currently handled at the state level, resulting in inconsistent recommendations. As a result, not all states currently require water activity testing of cannabis. However, based on its established relationship with common safety and quality modes of failure, it should be the most important analytical test run by anyone in the cannabis market. The objective of this manuscript is to describe the theory of water activity, outline its current inclusion in state regulations, and describe its impact on microbial and chemical stability.


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