Hemp Testing: the Connection to Environmental Toxicology

September 9, 2019

Written By

Abby Nash

Now that hemp is legal in the US, there is a growing demand for third-party labs that can test the influx of CBD-infused products available in the market. KJ Scientific has found a natural fit between environmental toxicology and our new hemp testing services.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, usually referred to simply as the Farm Bill of 2018, was signed into law on December 20th of last year. Among many other provisions, this bill has officially legalized industrial hemp in the United States. This allows states, territories and tribes to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries to grow this plant and sell products that include it as an ingredient. While hemp is legal now, marijuana is still a controlled substance and illegal in most states in the US. Therefore, farmers, producers and manufacturers all require hemp testing to prove that their products do not contain an illegal amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana.

At KJ Scientific, we have found a natural link between our environmental toxicology studies and this new and growing need for hemp testing by third-party laboratories.

What is Hemp Testing?

Hemp and marijuana are essentially the same plant. The only difference is in the level of THC present. For the plant to legally be considered hemp, it must contain less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Even if you are interested in other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), hemp testing is still necessary. CBD derived from hemp is legal, but CBD derived from a plant with high THC (> 0.3 %) is not. In addition to testing the potency of CBD and THC in the plant to ensure it’s legality, hemp is also evaluated based on several specific requirements.

Samples are evaluated for the potency of residual solvents, metals, pesticides and microbes. If the extraction method used to extract CBD requires the use of solvents such as alcohols, you may need to test for residual solvents. You also need to test for other compounds such as pesticides or biologicals such as mold, fungus and bacteria to make sure that they are absent or in trace amounts and not harmful to people as an ingredient in any consumable. While state standards vary, California has the strictest requirements. Our new venture, KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs, will be testing to these standards to ensure safety for human health.

Another fundamental part of hemp testing procedures involves profiling the terpenes. These are chemicals that are present in all plants that give them their flavor and aroma. In cannabis, over several hundreds different terpenes have been identified, each having a unique taste and smell.

The Growing Need for Hemp Testing

CBD derived from hemp is finding its way into everything from lotions, body butters, soaps, tinctures, edibles and digestibles. While the hemp industry may be booming, this also means the need for labs with the capacity and able to perform testing on cannabis plants is higher than ever. In states such as Texas for instance, felony cases involving the possession or delivery of marijuana are being dismissed because crime labs simply don’t have the capacity to test THC concentrations at this time to determine if the substance in question is actually hemp.

Not only are law enforcement agencies in need of these testing services, farmers and manufacturers of the growing list of CBD-infused products also need to prove they also aren’t breaking the law and that these are safe. Due to the expensive equipment required and the level of expertise of personnel involved in the testing process, it’s typically not an option for local and state agencies, farmers, producers and manufacturers to perform this kind of testing themselves. Moreover, it’s not always advisable for them to do so. The findings of an independent lab are preferred or even required in some places to verify levels of CBD and THC. In states such as Texas, for example, it is required to seek third party labs to do your testing.

How it Works

Since THC is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government, CBD testing occurs under rigorous conditions. Any lab conducting these tests must meet standards of accreditation. To test hemp, samples are extracted from the flower of the plant where the oils containing cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, are found.

By using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography (GC) and different detection methods, scientists are able to identify and quantify the compounds: cannabinoids, terpenes, any residual solvents, metals and pesticides. Depending on the compounds to be tested, separation technology such as chromatographic analysis can be coupled with detection techniques such as mass spectrometry (MS), Flame Ionization Detection (FID) or UV visible light (absorption of light at different wavelengths).

To analyze the potency of the cannabinoids, terpenes, solvents, metals, pesticides and microbes in the plant, edible, oils or other samples, we create a calibration curve – also known as a standard curve – based on standard samples of known concentration. By comparing the unknown concentrations of the sample against the known set, we are able to determine the potency of cannabinoids or concentration of the other compounds.

From Environmental Toxicology to Hemp Testing

Expanding our services into hemp testing is a natural fit for KJ Scientific. We are already experts in our industry, testing a variety of substances to ensure safety for environmental and human health. We know how to work under high quality control standards, having gone through a process of validating a technology (fish in vitro metabolism) through the OECD (Organization for Economic and Commerce Development). We have previously and are currently working with terpenes doing study contracts with fragrance materials in collaboration with RIFM (Research Institute for Fragrance Materials), and we regularly work with pesticides for environmental risk assessment. By moving into the growing field of hemp testing, we can continue to utilize our experience and knowledge to ensure safety for human and environmental health. It requires the use of the same equipment and similar process, experimentation and analysis.

Using both liquid and gas chromatographic instrumentation, we perform bioaccumulation studies on a variety of chemical mixtures for the pharmaceutical, oil and gas and other industries. Not only are we already familiar with the instruments needed to test cannabis, our personnel have expertise working under strict laboratory guidelines to provide results with high confidence for both our clients and regulatory authorities. We have knowledge in how to examine these chemicals and document all the steps and procedures involved for quality assurance.

When performing toxicological studies on different chemicals and testing the potency of hemp, the need for accuracy and adherence with regulatory authorities exists in both instances. Our previous experience has uniquely prepared us for the hemp testing industry. We will definitely add value to this industry due to our expertise.

KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs: Your Third-Party Lab

It is always better and/or required if you can provide results prepared by an entity outside of your company or organization. This goes for both applications of chemical testing and hemp samples. States such as Texas, California, Colorado and others even require that your testing results for hemp come from a third-party lab. It gives the tests more integrity if they come from a source that is not directly tied to the creation of the product. It also shows that you have confidence in your product that you are willing to let an outside assessor evaluate your company’s hemp production or manufacturing.

KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs, a subsidiary of KJ Scientific, was created to pursue testing services with the hemp industry and keep our mission of ensuring safety for human and environmental health. Built upon our expertise in environmental toxicology, our hemp testing procedures follow the strictest standards in the United States. We evaluate each sample for the potency of CBD, the presence of residual solvents, pesticides, microbes, metals and the profiling of terpenes.

KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs is preparing to be certified for the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) ISO/IEC 17025 standards. This means our personnel will be trained in specific protocols and our laboratory follows the strict requirements of procedures, documentation and handling the analyses of these types of compounds.

Work with an accredited third-party lab with the expertise to deliver you reliable results and experience working with regulatory bodies and upholding rigorous protocols. Contact us today for your hemp testing needs.

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