Colorado hemp testing, label rules may signal changes in other states

hemp testing

Health authorities in Colorado are looking for a lot more than just low THC in hemp these days, and a slate of new requirements for hemp products taking effect Thursday could signal a wave of regulations around the country.

The move comes as states step in to regulate over-the-counter products still ignored by federal authorities.

Colorado allows CBD and other hemp extracts to go in foods and drinks. But the state health department now requires those extracts to be tested for a long list of pesticides and contaminants, including heavy metals and mycotoxins.

The changes include a new requirement that hemp products carry labels listing total cannabinoid content in the package, including THC content, in milligrams.

Currently hemp product labels don’t have to to mention THC as long as the finished item is less than 0.3% THC.

By Oct. 1, Colorado will require hemp products to be tested for 106 pesticides, compared to 13 pesticides for regulated marijuana.

In addition, Colorado now requires products containing hemp extracts to be tested by a state-approved lab. The catch? Colorado has just one lab authorized to do it: Botanacor Laboratories in Denver.

Colorado may well be the tip of the iceberg. States from California to New York are mulling new testing and labeling requirements on hemp products.

The trend belies an interest in preparing for increased federal oversight.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly said that over-the-counter CBD is illegal.

But the rule is seldom enforced, and the agency has publicly been considering changes to cannabinoid regulation for more than two years, leading to a confusing patchwork of state rules for how hemp extracts can be labeled and sold.

Colorado’s changes are “designed to align our labeling requirements with federal food and dietary supplement label requirements,” according to Gabi Johnston, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

In an email to Hemp Industry Daily, Johnston compared the new THC requirement to notices on food labels.

“The previous requirement did not clearly define how much THC was in the product,” she wrote.

“This is similar to food labels that include allergens, sodium content and calories. Products that claim to have low sodium content, for example, must list how much sodium is in the product.”

Botanacor’s senior marketing director, Lisa Stemmer, said the lab isn’t expecting to be overwhelmed with CBD products because the state is allowing existing products to remain on shelves, with a slow phase-in for the requirements.

Colorado officials did not immediately answer questions about how the phase-in would work.

Stemmer, for her part, said testing requirements build consumer confidence in CBD products.

“We have to have a safety standard,” she said.

Kristen Nichols can be reached at