Hop Latent Viroid Causes $4 Billion Cannabis Industry Loss

A California laboratory has revealed statistics about a plant disease affecting the nation’s cannabis crops and the damage it is causing.

Davis-based cannabis genetics company Dark Heart Industries today announced its completion of 200,000 tests for Hop Latent Viroid (HLV).

HLV is a plant-specific pathogenic RNA that causes dudding in cannabis plants and is believed by some to be a possible cause of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome in consumers.

Dark Heart performed the tests for 100 California cannabis growers from August 2018 until July 2021.

According to Dark Heart, more than 33 percent of the tests from nearly 90 percent of the cultivation sites tested positive for HLV.

Dark Heart says the results support cannabis industry analyst projections that HLV affects more than 30 percent of all cannabis plants.

According to New Frontier Data, the infection rate translates to more than $4 billion in annual losses for U.S. cannabis growers, who are forecast to produce more than seven million pounds of cannabis in 2021.

“Hop Latent Viroid is perhaps the greatest threat to the legal cannabis industry in the United States,” says UC Davis Professor Emeritus Dr. Bryce Falk. “It is very difficult for growers to identify due to its latency, and it can spread undetected within a grow, wiping out much of the commercial value. For cannabis to achieve its potential as a commercial agricultural crop, the industry needs this type of large scale testing and treatment platform.”

Dark Heart Laboratory Director Dr. Jeremy Warren, Ph.D., was the first scientist to identify HLV as the cause of dudding, which manifests as stunting, yield reduction, potency reduction, morphology changes, and loss of vigor.

According to Dark Heart, Dr. Warren led the way to develop a patent-pending cleaning process to remove HLV from infected specimens.

Dark Heart says Dr. Warren’s discovery and hundreds of thousands of diagnostic tests over the past four years have enabled the company to reliably and demonstrably eliminate HLV infections.

Dark Heart CEO Dan Grace notes that HLV affects legal cannabis crops across the country, not just in California.

“Our new laboratory facility for biotechnology research and innovation in Davis, CA, greatly expands capacity to process viroid assays,” says Grace. “We not have the scale to support growers and other laboratory facilities from across the country.”