Cannabis contamination – return to the bad old days?

UKCIA has received a report of cannabis possibly containing glass beads in circulation in the Merseyside area.

Back in 2006/7 so-called “grit weed” appeared all around the country. It turned out the the grit was in fact tiny glass beads, the sort used to make reflective paint. The beads were sprayed onto the bud which made it glisten and look to the untrained eye like really high quality bud carrying lots of resin. It also of course added weight.

This became a major issue and eventually after some prodding the government eventually issued a warning about it, both in the form of a Home Office statement and a warning on the Talk To frank website. Both of these have long been deleted however.

The story was broken in no small part by this website, with the help of other law reform campaigners, notably the now defunct Legalise Cannabis Alliance. We were able to get electron microscope scans of contaminated bud, which is what eventually forced the government to acknowledge the issue.

The story was covered in the Guardian and is archived on the UKCIA site here

The problem seems to vanish quite quickly once the story was out, perhaps people became aware of it and simply refused to buy the stuff. However the extent of the contamination was truly impressive and pointed to some large scale operation.

Fast forward to 2020 and UKCIA has had a report of perhaps something similar having been seen on Merseyside.

A sample of contamiated cannabis
Possible gritweed
Showing possible glass bead contamination
The glistening nature of the bud can be seen in more detail
residue after burning - note shiny beads
Residue after burning

The bud was burned and this was the residue. The remaining beads of highly reflective material can be seen clearly. These beads were not destroyed by the heat of combustion, which implies something like glass rather than sugar.

residue in a grinder
Residue in a grinder

The final image is what was left in a grinder, quite a lot of whatever it is.

the bud contained threads of something
The bud also contained threads of something unknown

The contributor said “I inspected this weed after I had smoked a few joints, stupid I know I should have tested before hand. I have a tight chest, sore tongue, slight throat irritation and have developed an ulcer behind my bottom lip, I presume this is the effects of this contaminated cannabis”.

So far this is the only report of this UKCIA has seen, but it’s worth putting the message out. If you come across bud that looks a bit too good to be true, it probably is.

Finally it’s worth making the point that the government and police consider this sort of thing to be an indicator of “success” for their drug war policy, Their aim is to disrupt the supply side and high levels of contamination are used as an indicator that their efforts are working. The logic is that fear of contamination will deter use, it is deliberate harm maximisation.

Take care out there.


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

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