For any cannabis operation, failing state microbial testing is nothing short of a disaster. “Once you fail, your options are to cook the product or turn it into concentrate — either way, you lose more than half the value of the harvest,” says Patrick Campbell, operations manager for Leiffa, a Denver-based cannabis company. “Over the course of a year, that’s a big six-digit number in lost revenue for a business of our size.”
In Colorado, state regulations require microbial testing on every plant sold in the recreational market, with a maximum allowable value of 10,000 colony-forming units (CFUs) per sample — a strict limit that numerous companies have failed to meet. “Everyone’s struggling with this problem,” notes Campbell. “The microbial testing doesn’t differentiate between good and bad molds. It’s important for us to kill everything.” In the past, Leiffa’s test results were “all over the board,” says Campbell. “Some were zero, some were 1,000, 3,000 or 5,000, and one was 45,000.” A number of batches failed. Before each test, Leiffa couldn’t be confident its product would pass.
Thanks to Plasma Air’s air purification technology installed in the HVAC systems of both the harvest and curing rooms at Leiffa, Campbell no longer has to sweat the test results. With regard to mold, as well as salmonella and STEC bacteria, more than 20 tests have yielded the same results: “none detected.” In the past, the company had tried multiple technologies to control mold and other microbial impurities. “They all either did nothing or very little to combat contaminants and were an absolute waste of money,” says Campbell.
But Campbell isn’t surprised Plasma Air has worked so well. “I spent months doing research and talked to four other growers. I know this is real technology. I vetted it as hard as you can.” Campbell says. Others at the company, including the owners, weren’t expecting such stellar results and were blown away. Passing microbial testing may be the most difficult hurdle for cannabis growers to clear, but it’s not the only one. Companies must also comply with odor control regulations, and Plasma Air technology helps Leiffa on that front, too. “We had to file an odor control plan with the city and wanted to be on top of things and do everything right,” Campbell says.
Just how clean do the Leiffa rooms smell? “If you blindfolded someone, there’s no way they would know there’s marijuana in the room. People walk into the room and say ‘Wow — the smell just isn’t there.’ You can just walk in and know the technology is working.” In fact, the absence of odor was so striking that one employee worried the technology had worked too well. “He was concerned it was going to ruin the smell of the product,”Campbell says. But as Campbell pointed out, it was just the air that had lost the telltale cannabis smell — not the plant itself.