A California man and medical marijuana patient suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy may have died from a batch of contaminated medical marijuana. Authorities familiar with the case say the unidentified man that died was suffering from cancer before the fungal infection took a fatal turn earlier this week.
Doctors say the patient's immune system was compromised from undergoing a very intensive chemotherapy and stem cell therapy. As of now, his death is believed to have stemmed from a fungal infection - not cancer, or his cancer treatments.
Dr. Joseph Tuscano of the University of California, Davis Cancer Center says the patient was a known medical marijuana user, citing that it helped with the nausea and appetite issues that come with the treatment.
Due to the federally illegal status of cannabis, the medical center paired up with Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley, California, to further investigate by testing a swatch of cannabis medicines collected from across the state.
The lab said normally, 20 or 30 percent of their samples are significantly contaminated with molds. But after digging deeper, the 20 different samples from across the state turned in surprising results.
The lab analyses came back with bad news.
Dr. Donald Land is an expert in analyzing contaminated marijuana, he was also helping in the investigation. "We were a little bit startled that ninety percent of those samples had something on them," Lund told a local news outlet, "Some DNA of some pathogen.”
“The cannabis was contaminated with many bacteria and fungi, some of which was compatible with the infections that I saw in my patients,” explained Dr. Tuscano to CBS.
No word yet on the specific fungus that turned lethal. Thus far, doctors involved in the case are weary to fully support for medical cannabis, especially if it's smoked by patients.
“The problem, in my opinion, is that there’s this misconception that these dispensaries produce products that have been tested to be safe for patients, and that’s not necessarily the case,” advises Dr. Tuscan.