Cleaning up contaminated soil with Cannabis

Cannabis is one of the most versatile plants in the world with over 20,000 known uses. It gives us food, medicine, clothes to keep us warm, fuel, building materials, rope among hundreds of other uses.

And what’s exciting is that as Cannabis becomes more widely accepted in society, we are getting a better understanding of the plant and discovering more uses for it.

One useful application, is the ability some Cannabis cultivators have to soak up heavy metals from the soil, thus cleaning up contaminated land. This is not a new discovery in itself… Cannabis was planted around the contaminated Chernobyl site in an attempt to clean up the contaminated land after the nuclear fallout in the 80’s.

However what has recently been discovered is that for some strains of Cannabis this process appears to boost its Cannabinoid production process that has been demonstrated in in a recent study from the United States titled :

'Enhanced tolerance of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) plants on abandoned mine land soil leads to overexpression of cannabinoids'



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Historical industrial activity is synonymous with environmental pollution. Many practices such as coal mining, often resulted in the accumulation of inorganic metals and heavy metals in the soil, around coal mine sites and their local ecosystems.

Depending on their concentration, heavy metals can be detrimental to many plants as the inorganic compounds interfere with the expression of genes that regulate plant physiology.

However not all plants are the same. Despite some plants being unable to tolerate even trace amounts of heavy metals, other plants seem to tolerate them much better while yet others seem to thrive in their presence. Plants like these are often used to clean contaminated soil in a process called Phytoremediation.

This is not a new process and many plants are effective at removing contaminants from the soil, but Cannabis use for Phytoremediation is considered a good option because it is relatively cheap, quick and easy to grow.

Past studies have shown Cannabis’s ability to remove lead and other heavy metals from the soil, so the scientists decided to test different varieties of industrial hemp’s efficacy in Phytoremediation. They did this both outside and in greenhouses on contaminated mine sites in the USA and compared the same strains grown in uncontaminated soil in the same conditions.

One variety in particular called Phelena 32 had significantly higher heavy metal contamination than the varieties grown away from the polluted land in commercial soil clearly demonstrating its ability to cleanse the soil.

Not only that but they discovered that the increase in heavy metals leads to the influence of secondary metabolites… In essence leading to the increased production of CBD in some cannabis cultivars.

This is a win win situation as the CBD content can easily be separated from the toxic metals. Once purified that CBD can be made into an isolate, which is becoming a highly sought after commodity.

This is just another example of ways in which we can use Cannabis to make the world a better place.

References: Dr Ricardo Rivera: The Cannabis Science Podcast, Plos One: Enhanced tolerance of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) plants on abandoned mine land soil leads to overexpression of cannabinoids,


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