Hemp Testing takes up a large portion of the hemp manufacturing process. The USDA requires all hemp farmers to test their crops for THC compliance, and all hemp manufacturers do the same before sharing them with the public. To do so, farmers and manufacturers must enlist the help of third-party lab testing facilities that comply with USDA hemp testing standards. What’s more, these labs must provide a thorough analysis of the test results, including both existing and potential THC levels, plus other detectable contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals.
Today, we’ll discuss the basics of hemp testing, including hemp testing requirements, why hemp testing is important, and some basic guidelines regarding hemp crop and hemp product testing.
About Hemp Laboratory Testing
The USDA requires that all hemp producers confirm the legal status of their hemp products. To be clear, lawmakers define hemp as any cannabis product that contains less than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Any product that tests over that is “marijuana” which is illegal in much of the nation. Notably, marijuana is subject to completely different regulations and restrictions and does not qualify for interstate commerce.
Additionally, some hemp testing labs will look for specific contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, moulds, and residual solvents. Though this is not a USDA requirement, some jurisdictions require this type of extensive testing to protect consumers and maintain the integrity of the industry in the area.
Why Hemp Testing is Important
The most important reason that hemp testing is important is that it’s an FDA requirement. To be clear, it is illegal to sell CBD products commercially if they do not meet FDA hemp guidelines. For example, CBD products sourced from marijuana-type cannabis are considered marijuana products, even if they contain no THC. As such, these products are not protected by the USDA’s commercial hemp guidelines and can only sell within a state-approved marijuana market.
Additionally, hemp testing is an important component of consumer safety. A recent study found that 25 percent of CBD products on the market are not tested for impurities like heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants. What’s more, many do not contain the levels of CBD than their labels claim. This is problematic for consumers, especially those more vulnerable to illness because it does not guarantee the purity and consistency that they require. For example, they may have difficulty determining accurate “doses” or consumption routines. Additionally, the products may contain substances that are not safe to consume.
Essentially, hemp testing provides much-needed transparency in a somewhat unregulated market. The USDA has not established a standard testing protocol outside a few basic requirements, so thorough testing and reporting help ensure that customers get exactly what they paid for, and nothing that they didn’t.
Hemp Testing Timeline
There are many steps in the hemp testing timeline, each as important as the last. These tests help ensure product purity and transparency and help maintain product compliance during every step of the hemp supply chain journey. Let’s take a closer look.
Before the first seed is sewn, hemp farmers must confirm that their soil is safe and contaminant-free. This is especially important for those who grow consumable hemp products considering hemp’s superior phytoremediation properties. Essentially, hemp absorbs toxins from the soil and stores them in its leaves, stems, and roots. As such, most jurisdictions prohibit growing consumable hemp on contaminated soil.
Pre-harvest hemp testing involves testing the plants for nutrient demands and cannabinoid composition. Importantly, hemp plants cease to be legal if their D9 THC content creeps above 0.3 percent, so it’s always wise to test soon into the flowering phase to ensure compliant cannabinoid levels during development. Pre-harvest testing also helps farmers ensure their plants receive all vital nutrients without causing them to burn.
Post-Harvest Hemp Testing
Post-harvest testing occurs after the hemp harvest has had time to dry and cure. Testing in this phase is important because the drying process could alter the plant’s cannabinoid and terpene profile. It’s also wise to test for moisture because excess moisture could promote bacterial growth or compromise the hemp extraction process.
Many extraction methods use solvents to strip the plant of its most valuable components – cannabinoids and terpenes. When done properly, the resulting cannabinoid extracts should contain ample cannabinoids and (potentially) terpenes and no residual solvents. Post-extraction testing labs will scan the product for solvents and microbial agents, and outline the exact cannabinoid concentrations, as well.
Post-Production Hemp Testing
Lastly, hemp products may be tested after manufacturers have infused them with CBD hemp extracts. This stage of the testing process reaffirms product purity and potency and ensures that label information and product descriptions are highly accurate. Notably, most jurisdictions don’t require this testing stage, but consumers often prefer it.
COAs for Consumers
Hemp testing is important for both compliance and consumer safety. As such, we always recommend sharing product test results on e-commerce platforms. Alternatively, CBD business owners can link to them via QR codes on packages and labels. As lots change, businesses should update test results to maintain product transparency and appease CBD banking institutions.
Final Thoughts About Hemp Testing
Hemp testing is only one component of the CBD supply chain process and offers many opportunities to confirm potency and purity. Qualified CBD manufacturers should test their products frequently during all stages of hemp product development and display relevant results to retail sellers.
As an experienced CBD product supplier, VCM is very familiar with the testing process. All our products include accurate testing results. Notably, customers can display this information on their websites and use them to confirm product compliance.
Outsource your CBD supply to VCM and leave the testing and product development to us. Contact us to learn more or view our product catalog now. Also, join our mailing list for hemp news, product updates, and occasional promotional offers.
Abby is a freelance cannabis writer and Founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace and training platform designed to connect cannabis creatives with businesses that need their services. Learn more at CannabisContent.net