Hemp and CBD products are processed from a plant called Cannabis Sativa. Marijuana, a banned substance till recently with restricted availability for medical and adult recreational purposes in the form of medical cannabis, is also sourced from the same plant with a primary difference in the presence of psychoactive compounds in them.
Currently, the term cannabis refers to a product where the chemotype is optimized for THC levels, and hemp is the product where the psychoactive element THC concentrations are less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. Hemp flowerheads and seeds contain less potency of cannabinoid compounds. However, some regulators prefer to check the total of THC and THCA to qualify the product based on potency. This is because THCA when burned turns into THC thereby increasing the overall content of psychoactive elements in the product on a dry weight basis beyond the threshold limit.
Farm Bill 2018
Hemp and industrial hemp were cleared as legal crops that can be grown in the US after the changes to the Farm Bill in 2018. Since then, the use of hemp products and the CBD industry has grown, with more people showing interest in this business. Hemp has many benefits simply because all the parts of the plant including the stem and roots can be utilized without wastage. In many parts of the world, it is treated as a cash crop.
Hemp can become the sustainable alternative for the future as the bast fiber from the plant is used in making biodegradable and ecological products that can be used as a replacement for polymers and plastics. It is processed to make mattress bedding, packaging material, breathable textiles, strong fiberglass, and countless other useful items. CBD and edible hemp is used as nutrient source to build immunity with their abundant dietary benefits like omega-3 fatty acids and a source of essential minerals and vitamins.
Cannabis plants also contain caryophyllene terpene that gives them a distinct smell and is found in most plants that have an odor like lavender, dill, thyme, sage, and citrus plants. The profile of terpenes and their content level is important for edible cannabis or hemp products.
Why are cannabis and hemp testing important?
Although there is no regulatory requirement to test the products made for cannabis or industrial hemp consumption, including CBD products, there is a lot of myth and ambiguity surrounding the plant for many years preceding the legal leeway that has been granted in the recent period.
Cannabis indeed has the presence of psychoactive compounds in the form of THC. But it is valid that cannabis has been used by ancient civilizations for many years for general and medicinal uses.
The research for medical reasons is ongoing, but without the psychoactive properties, the plant products are known to alleviate common pain related to muscle and nerve damage. CBD products are endorsed by many people who have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid pains. Muscle pull and nerve damage pain related to occupational fatigue is managed using hemp products.
However, all plant-based products are prone to contamination if not harvested and stored properly. Products that are not safe for human or animal consumption should not be sold in the public domain. Maintaining the credibility of the industry and the brand requires testing for all important parameters. It needs to be conducted from a reliable lab.
For this part, it is imperative to know that the designated lab follows industry-related best practices for hemp and CBD analysis. These are some of the processes flows that are accepted as acceptable methods for testing process flow:
Maintaining proper paperwork with a trail that relates to the source, manufacturing, and analysis of the ingredients used if it is a food-related hemp product is recommended as good practice. As per US Hemp Authority, paperwork that includes digital and physical records related to the hemp process from seed to packaging needs to be maintained for at least five years.
2. Cannabis characterization
The testing for potency and terpenes involves the characterization and breaking down of the chemical characteristics of cannabis samples. The complex nature of a few of the non-polar elements and isomers with similar structures makes it the challenging part of the test procedure. But this stage is crucial and often used as a quality control step in the processing stage, including independent testing.
Through proximate methods, additional factors like moisture, protein, fat, and fiber information are deciphered. Once this part is analyzed, an appropriate CBD extraction method is decided.
3. Standard operating process
Iterating the complexity of cannabinoids, a testing laboratory needs to use a standard method of testing for extracting and measuring various elements. The nature of the process used, apparatus, reference points, and results have to be recorded in chronological format. If standardization is achieved by blending batches, then the details have to be mentioned with proper measurements.
The testing of the sample should be carried out on a dry-weight basis. If the sample is not dry, it has to be dried in the sun for twenty-four hours. In case it is not possible to sun dry in normal conditions, the sample needs to be frozen below -20 degrees before testing it for any of the factors.
4. Raw material specifications
There are well-established specifications for the type of raw material that is used in assessing the cannabis character profile and extraction method of cannabinoids. The raw material used for testing processes like HPLC, gas chromatography, polymerase chain reaction, and other important testing methods like solvents, flow agents, and blending oils, should be specified in the same format as it is done for food chemicals codex or FCC requirements.
Testing hemp and CBD is not mandatory but crucial to establish the credibility of the brand’s goodwill. And ensure public safety for consumption free of contamination from microorganisms, harmful heavy metals, and residual pesticides in any of the finished products.
The consumption of hemp as a dietary substitute is indirectly propelling the need for adherence to qualified third-party laboratory testing. This step will aid in independent unbiased opinions from experts in the field and kindle confidence in consumers.