Cannabis and Cleaning: More Closely Connected than You Might Think
Canada has always been ahead of the game when it comes to cannabis compared to most countries around the world. For instance, in Canada it has been legal to use cannabis for medical purposes since July 2001. The next big step forward (depending on your point of view) came on October 17, 2018. That’s when the Cannabis Act, as it is called, went into effect. It made Canada the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to allow cannabis to be used for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
By January 2019, on-line sales of cannabis for recreational uses were well underway. Entrepreneurs, not only in Canada but the U.S. and countries around the world, are eager to jump on this new opportunity. A look at the economic predictions tells us why. Investment advisor, Motley Fool, reports that “financial experts from all over the world agree: a marijuana boom is coming,” with worldwide sales estimated to reach CA$330 billion by 2030.
The Cleaning Connection
While expectations are high, this continuing growth in the cannabis market is very dependent on something many of these entrepreneurs may not be aware of: the vital significance of effective cleaning and sanitation.
Cannabis plants are fragile, and environmental conditions can impact their growth and development. For instance, if the production area is not kept clean and in a state of microbial control, it can have an impact on your employees as much as the health of the plant.
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – potentially the result of fumes from cleaning solutions or other chemicals used in the area – can harm the plant, especially in the early stages of growth. Even if the plant survives in such a setting, it may not be as robust as it should be and may not reach its full growth potential.
Further, effective cleaning also helps keep the growing area unattractive to insects. These insects can destroy the plants, wiping out an entire cannabis growing inventory.
Among the things cannabis growers must also be aware of is that cross contamination in production areas is a big concern, according to Mike Watt, head of Training and New Product Development at Avmor, a leading Canadian manufacturer of professional cleaning solutions that can be used to clean cannabis facility. There are two cross-contamination risk areas that growers must be aware of. The first are the “high risk” areas, which would include the following:
- Growing rooms
- Packaging areas
- Curing/drying rooms
- Trimming areas
- Hallways and corridors near the growing area
- Change rooms (where workers change from street clothes to work clothes and vice versa)
Watt advises that these areas must be cleaned daily, to remove visible soils, and then disinfected: a critical two-step process. While some growers may use EPA-registered disinfectants, Watt advises selecting disinfectants that bear a DIN (Drug Identification Number) issued by Health Canada. Located on the product label, this eight-digit number verifies that the disinfectant has been evaluated and meets Canada’s specific standards and requirements regarding disinfectants in which the product is sold and used.
Low-risk areas in a cannabis facility would include the following:
- Security rooms
- Warehouse areas
- Shipping and receiving areas
- Kitchens and bathrooms.
These areas must also be cleaned daily, but do not need to be disinfected. “The use of sanitizers should prove sufficient,” he says, “but as with disinfectants, it is important to clean the area first to remove soils. This improves the efficacy of both sanitizers and disinfectants.”
He also suggests that the sanitation program and standard operating procedures (SOP) be compliant with Health Canada’s Good Production Practices (GPP) and Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).* Further, he points out that both high-risk production areas and low-risk non-production areas are interconnected. “Contamination in a low-risk area can impact the health of plants in high-risk areas, and contamination in high-risk areas can impact low-risk areas of a facility. All areas must be cleaned, disinfected and/or sanitized properly and on an ongoing basis.”
Other Cleaning Related Issues
We have already addressed the fact that cannabis plants are fragile and that an unhealthy environment can limit their growth and potency. Because of this, growers need to take a number of steps before cannabis plants are even introduced into a growing area to ensure their health and well-being. Among these, according to Watt, are the following:
Sweep and vacuum. The entire growing area should be swept clean and vacuumed before planting to remove debris and dust. Particular attention should be placed on vacuuming cracks and crevices on all surfaces but especially the floor. This is where moisture and contaminants may hide.
The cleaning process. Begin cleaning from the area in the room farthest from the exit, cleaning top-down, side-to-side to remove particulates. If using buckets, one or more should be filled with rinse water and one disinfectant. Change the buckets frequently and use cloths and mop heads that are “lint-free,” so as not to leave or spread particulates.
Disinfectant selection. We already mentioned the importance of selecting a disinfectant with a DIN. However, due to the concern of protecting indoor air quality (IAQ), disinfectants that are certified by Greenguard are recommended. “This certification puts far greater focus on IAQ than the other certification organizations.” For instance, this certification ensures that the product does not have “breathable” volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When it comes to VOCs, most other green certification organizations focus on protecting the ozone layer surrounding the earth, with less focus on the air we breathe.
Vents, filters, and airflow. The growing area will likely be ventilated, cooled, and heated. Over time, layers of dust can build up in these systems that can negatively impact IAQ.
Puddled water. Floors in a cannabis growing area will become wet, even have puddles. These wet areas can become a breeding ground for germs, bacteria, and mold that can harm the plants. “Invest in a wet/dry vacuum cleaner that not only vacuums up the moisture, but helps remove debris, soil, and dead plant matter from the floors.” At the same time, you can consider using a slip resistance enhancing treatment to improve safety and reduce slip and fall injuries
Keeping cannabis facility clean is also important from a marketing perspective. While security is typically very high in a cannabis facility, growers of cannabis may still invite visitors, vendors, and potential customers to see how their facilities operate, and growing areas are a key part of the tour. In addition to a clean marketing area, a clean, healthy, growing area is an indication of a safe and professionally operated facility—a facility that can be counted on to produce healthy, robust plants.
Glossary of Terms
A disinfectant is capable of destroying or irreversibly inactivating pathogenic (disease-causing) agents but not necessarily bacterial spores.
A sanitizer is a mixture of substances that reduces the bacterial population on a surface but does not necessarily destroy all bacteria on those surfaces.
Weed, Cannabis, hemp, pot, and marijuana all refer to essentially the same thing. They all contain the same psychoactive ingredients, but they may vary in amounts.
Cannabis is the scientific name for the plant whereas marijuana and pot were used the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics to “demonize” the plant and the smoking it. In time, “pot” has become one of many slang terms referring to cannabis.
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry.
* Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) is the part of quality assurance that ensures that drugs are consistently produced and controlled in such a way to meet the quality standards appropriate to their intended use, as required by the marketing authorization. (Health Canada) https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/compliance-enforcement/good-manufacturing-practices.html
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) is a set of Canadian government regulations to allow approved and licensed patients to possess and use cannabis to treat medical illnesses or conditions. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Regulations/SOR-2018-144/index.html
Source: Health Canada