New guidelines require laboratories to meet AOAC Standard Method Performance Requirements for Quantitation of Cannabinoids in Hemp

NEWS BACKGROUND: November 12, 2019—AOAC INTERNATIONAL announced today that a testing standard recently finalized through its Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) has been named in guidelines for an interim final rule as the standard to meet in analyzing the THC content of hemp.

On October 29, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. This new program was mandated by the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (known as the Farm Bill) to provide a consistent regulatory framework in this expanding industry. A fundamental requirement of the program is testing for THC levels.

Until recently, no globally recognized standard existed for analyzing THC levels. But in September 2019, CASP scientists finalized an official standard for testing cannabinoids in hemp. This Standard Method Performance Requirement for Quantitation of Cannabinoids in Plant Materials of Hemp (Low THC Varieties Cannabis sp.) was referenced in the USDA announcement as the official standard for laboratories to meet when selecting an appropriate method for analyzing THC levels.

AOAC’s CASP program also developed related cannabis testing standards, including determining residual solvents in cannabis derivatives, and for detecting Aspergillus fungus in cannabis and cannabis products. These new standards represent a significant development for producers and consumers.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. While cultivation and consumption of cannabis has been decriminalized in many states in recent years in both low-THC form (hemp) and high-THC form (marijuana), at the federal level regulations limited commercial production prior to passage of the Farm Bill. Hemp, which is defined as having less than 0.3% THC, is produced largely for processing into consumer CBD products.

The new USDA Hemp Production Program was established through interim final rule that is open for public comment until December 30, 2019.