Justice Department grants federal lab $350K to develop THC test for hemp

The research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded $350,000 to a federal laboratory to develop a reliable method for measuring THC levels to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana.

The 2018 Farm Bill allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States by providing a threshold of 0.3% THC for the entire plant.

Federal and state authorities that seize cannabis plants rely on forensic laboratories to distinguish legal hemp from illegal marijuana, but most labs lack dependable extraction methods and tools of analysis for this purpose.

“The objective of this project is to provide forensic laboratories with the necessary analytical tools to confidently make these measurements through simple, robust, and cost-effective analytical methods,” the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice wrote in a grant notice published last week.

The grant recipient is the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal laboratory under the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to the announcement, NIST will focus on the development of dilution methods, extraction protocols, a single laboratory validation study and evaluations of measurement tools.

The NIST is collaborating with state and county law enforcement in Maryland “to allow for a critical evaluation of the new analytical methods to ensure their applicability to meet forensic laboratory needs,” the notice said.