Federal scientists unveil program to improve hemp, marijuana lab testing accuracy

A federal science agency launched a program on Tuesday, aimed at helping laboratories accurately measure key chemical compounds in hemp and marijuana products including oils, edibles, tinctures and balms.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cannabis Quality Assurance (CannaQAP) program could help increase accuracy in product labeling and help forensic laboratories distinguish products between federally legal hemp and marijuana, which is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance legal in several states.

NIST, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a physical science agency that helps set industry standards to encourage innovation and improve U.S industries’ ability to compete in the world economy.

Through the CannaQAP program, NIST will send hemp oil samples to participating labs to measure the concentration of various compounds, including CBD and THC, and report back to NIST, according to an NIST release.

The goal is to help labs produce consistent measurement results. In the first round of exercises, the measurements obtained will be published to show the variability between labs, along with the correct measurements to allow labs to measure their performance compared to other labs.

However, the published samples will be anonymized, so lab identities are not revealed.

Researchers will also assess laboratory methods to analyze which perform better results than others, so it can recommend the best methods.

NIST will also conduct future exercises with ground plant material from hemp and potentially marijuana, measuring more compounds including terpenes, fungal toxins, pesticides and heavy metals. Testing in future exercises may also include extracts, concentrates, distillates and edibles.

NIST is also working on a hemp reference material, which comes with known, accurate measurement values, which labs can use to validate their measurement methods.

The agency has produced standard reference materials and quality assurance programs for the dietary supplement industry among others.

Laboratories interested in participating in CannaQAP can register online through Aug. 31.