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Pathogen spreading among crops is cutting recreational drug’s potency, forcing growers to cull ‘dudded’ plants

Dean Seal, The Wall Street Journal

A pathogen is contaminating cannabis crops around the country and threatening to leave billions of dollars of losses in its wake.

Cannabis researchers and experts are sounding the alarm for what is known as hop latent viroid, or HLVd, and cultivators are stepping up efforts to discover whether their plants are infected. The pathogen can drastically reduce the potency of the psychoactive compounds in marijuana, a phenomenon that growers have long called “dudding.”

The pathogen is easily transmitted by contaminated tools or human hands, or through shared root systems or irrigation networks. In all cases, symptoms won’t start showing up until it’s too late.

“It’s a risk within your facility for your healthy plants at all times,” said Miles Sadowsky, chief cultivating officer at Earth’s Healing dispensary in Tucson, Ariz. “It’s kind of like a fox in the henhouse.”

There isn’t a known cure for the viroid, researchers say, and the uneven regulatory landscape for marijuana puts the onus on growers to …