March 27, 2020
Kerry Smith of USDA

Cannabis programming at the Midyear Meeting covered a lot of ground, with a presentation on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Domestic Hemp Program, followed by votes on Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPRs) and the launch of the new Education & Training Working Group.

On March 11, the Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) kicked off with an update on the domestic hemp program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dr. Kerry Smith, Director of the Laboratory Approval and Testing Division, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). After reviewing the Agricultural Marketing Service’s mission, she highlighted key aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill. Moving on to the Interim Final Rule, she noted that over 4,600 comments had been received. The Rule sunsets after two years, allowing a full crop cycle and an additional comment period before the Rule is finalized. Those wishing to participate are encouraged to visit the USDA/AMS Hemp Production Program website at ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp and send questions to Farmbill.Hemp@usda.gov.,

The session continued with presentation of three SMPRs that have been in development by CASP working groups since September 2019. All three are critical for method developers and the cannabis testing community, as most state labs that test cannabis test for Salmonella as well as heavy metals.

The Microbial Contaminants Working Group, chaired by Dr. Julia Bramante, presented a draft SMPR for the Detection of Salmonella species in cannabis and cannabis products.

The Chemical Contaminants Working Group, formerly chaired by Dr. Susan Audino and currently chaired by Dr. Julie Kowalski, presented a draft SMPR for the determination of heavy metals in a variety of cannabis and cannabis derived products.

Due to travel restrictions, the quorum needed for consensus-based approval was not reached at the meeting, so those present voted to send the two SMPRs to the wider CASP community for an e-ballot vote.

Susan Audino

A third SMPR, from the Cannabinoids Working Group, addressed the essential step of establishing moisture content in plant materials, which can alter testing results for cannabinoids.  Dr. Holly Johnson, chair of the working group, presented an SMPR for moisture in hemp and cannabis plant material. After considerable debate around what upper and lower limits are practical, the SMPR was sent back to the working group with recommendations.

A CASP Expert Review Panel gathered to review candidate methods, one for detection of residual solvents in cannabis derived products and another for cannabinoids in hemp by dry weight. Methods for residual solvents are needed to protect consumers from solvents used in the processing of cannabis to make cannabis products like CBD oils. Methods for cannabinoids in hemp by dry weight will support the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program established by the USDA. After extensive discussion it was decided to postpone the review for technical revisions.

Finally, the Midyear Meeting saw the launch of the new CASP Education & Training Working Group, chaired by Dr. Toby Astill of PerkinElmer. This group will examine opportunities and suggest solutions for sharing information and training within the scientific community, regulatory bodies, AOAC stakeholders, and other interested parties.