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.

One comment on “Justice Department grants federal lab $350K to develop THC test for hemp
  1. Bradford Correia on

    I’m a Farmer in Rochester Massachusetts. Two years ago we dedicated a few acres, and started growing hemp for Flower. Our intent has been to produce our own oil and smokable flower. As we already had good soil, irrigation, greenhouses, and equipment our crop flourished. Out of concern for THC levels we tested multiple times in private labs. An expensive endeavor. Thankfully, our private monitoring was successful and we harvested in time to test below the THC limit.
    We dedicated 15 acres to hemp in the 2020 season. Because of COVID, Massachusetts was very late issuing permits.
    Do to late planting and a severe 100 year drought, our plants were literally less than one quarter the size of last year. We didn’t do any independent testing because the entire crop was so unhealthy.
    The result from the state showed a THC level of .56!!! This is a criminal level!!
    After heating, drying and aerating the next state test showed a .36! We are repeating that process, while having product tested in an independent lab. We have just a few days remaining to submit our final sample to the state. If we test higher than .3 our entire crop will be destroyed!!!
    .3 must be just an arbitrary number set by ill-informed legislators. Nobody would buy Marijuana to achieve a THC high, at a level below 10%. Most strive for 15% – 20%.
    The THC limit could literally be 10X higher at 3% and couldn’t be marketed to a customer base looking to get a THC High.
    I’m not suggesting 3% as the limit, however .3% is ridiculous, and could easily be raised to over 1% and be considered useless for other than its CBD content!
    An estimated 20% of raw hemp will test over the limit and be destroyed this season!!!
    Imagine Corn, Soybean, Potato, or other vegetables with that kind of waste. We wouldn’t have a farmer in the entire country! Legislators would surely act fast to correct the problems.

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