New task force sets out to standardize hemp sampling methods, analysis

There are benchmarks and standards for nearly everything when it comes to agricultural production, but not everyone is always using the same methods or using them in the same tactical way – especially in a nascent industry such as hemp.

That’s why a new task force commissioned by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) is aiming to find out how different companies, organizations and government agencies across the United States and internationally are measuring and analyzing hemp samples for flower, fiber, food and other uses.

“Field sampling, sample preparation and analytical testing methods have been identified and practiced in many different forms over the years, yet there are still many discrepancies in the details that are causing confusion,” HIA President Joy Beckerman said during the association’s 2019 annual meeting.

Case in point – practices put in place by state agriculture departments might differ from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) sampling guidelines in the interim final rule for hemp production, and those might differ from methods used in other countries.

According to Mark Privitera – a hemp farmer, engineer and CEO of PreProcess, a San Francisco-based process development and engineering firm – reliable and repeatable data is crucial to driving legal, industrial and commercial operations.

The organization proposed during the national meeting that the hemp industry has a need to study the various sampling and analysis methods.

“CBD is the big deal right now, but it’s not the only thing,” Privitera said. “My company is trying to make nonwovens; we’re trying to make carbon for hemp batteries.

“Well, we need particle-size distribution methods. We need food and nutrition (specification). Now, a lot of those already exist for all kinds of industries, but what are we going to use for hemp?”

Privitera will lead the HIA’s Sample and Analytical Task Force to address this need. The task force plans to identify issues as a forum for discussion and education on the topic, Beckerman said.

Getting started with gathering information

In the last quarter of 2019, Privitera recruited industry members to be part of a multilayer team investigating the different methodologies used for sampling analysis.

Ideally, the task force will be made up of scientists such as analytical chemists and university researchers in the hemp industry, Privitera said.

“There are three or four big processors that have their own books of methods,” he said. “I need the quality control directors and vice presidents for those big companies to come into the game.”

One layer of the task force will encompass the ground-level, hands-on group of a few individuals, followed by participating members who will provide input and an advisory level of individuals in state and federal agriculture departments and other regulatory agencies, Privitera told Hemp Industry Daily.

Road map to recommendations

The goal of the task force is to accomplish three functions:

  • Establish a content road map to gather the methodologies.
  • Gather or develop content on the different sampling and analysis methodologies.
  • Make recommendations for potential next steps.

“In the big picture, (the group will start with) flower-based CBD products, then it’ll be grain-based food and oil products, then the bast-based fiber and associated products, then hurd-based and associated products,” Privitera said.

Concrete, for example, has a bank of tests that can be used for hempcrete, Privetera said, so it will be easy to identify the tests that could be used.

“So that’s what we’re trying to a gather for the first three months, then the next three months – through quarter two of 2020 – the team’s going to look for clashes,” he said.

For instance, the team might identify several different methods for cutting hemp plant samples to measure THC- and different recommendations for how many samples to cut – so all of that information will be gathered to show the perspective of how many different methodologies are in use within the industry.

“The USDA (rule) that just came out says measure (THC content),” Privitera said, “but they don’t really say take seven samples from a 1-pound mass that came from 20 samples out of a super sack of 20 to 30 screen mesh biomass.”

From there, in the third quarter of the year, the group will develop recommendations for what to do next, such as form a committee to evaluate the different sampling methods and present those recommendations to the industry during the national HIA meeting, Privitera told Hemp Industry Daily.

“I’m an engineer, and if we’re going to make determinations on legality – or if you and I are going to exchange money for mass and I say it’s 8% and you say it’s 4% – that’s a big deal. That’s half my money or half your money.

“So we’re not trying to come up with the standards, we’re just asking what (methods) everybody is using right now.”

International body also studying hemp samples

While the HIA sampling and analysis task force is new to the association, this effort is not new to the industry.

The industrial hemp subcommittee for ASTM International, an organization that develops industrial standards, initiated an effort to establish a set of protocols for sampling the hemp plant in April 2019.

ASTM reasoned that because hemp and its products are different from marijuana, sampling and testing procedures should reflect this.

Currently, most sampling protocols are focused on the flower only and omit sampling for whole-plant use and processing, the ASTM said.

The organization established its industrial hemp subcommittee in July 2018 as part of its then newly formed cannabis committee.

According to ASTM, the industrial hemp subcommittee was formed to develop practices and guides relevant to industrial hemp and its applications, including food, natural health products, animal feed and nonconsumable products such as insulation, fabrics and concrete.

Laura Drotleff can be reached at [email protected]

Subscribe to our Newsletter

6 comments on “New task force sets out to standardize hemp sampling methods, analysis
  1. Pat Jack on

    We need to have clearly defined regulations for how flower should be tested first. The entire industry is based on the flower, thus the first tests on the flower and biomass must be as precise as possible.

    The DEA Dry weight peril conundrum where total THC percentage increases in testing results as dry weight decreases, (12%-5% massive variance in moisture content allowed for testing total THC under interim rules), this needs to be fixed first. If we start the entire chain of testing through the verticals introducing a .028% total THC variable that then knocks down any new blocks or methods based on initial testing; if it’s Chenga, play the game right. A solid base method for testing flower must be developed first, then do extracts.

    Reply
  2. Ralf Basse on

    New Mexico has one of the most stringent Hemp Testing rules.
    As a finished goods manufacturer we run 5 to 10 different skus a day.
    Testing is expensive!
    We constantly have discrepancies in the testing results, lab results are all over the map . We can send the same sample to 3 different labs and get 3 different results.
    We do know that our materials are homogenized and are confident in the even distribution of CBD in the batches.
    Retesting and lost time is very costly.

    Reply
  3. Keith Jones on

    Actually, in Canada the industry was initially based on food (hemp seed, protein, oil), and is now developing to encompass fibre, feed, and healthy fractions (which include use of the flower). It is probably preferable to have industry develop and adopt standards, rather than relying on different governments to come up with regulations (which are already different). The various hemp industry associations (CHTA, HIA, EIHA and others) are starting to work together towards this end.

    Reply
  4. hempman on

    I would like to know who came up with the .3% THC directive. It seems someone is too worried about hemp growers raising weed instead of hemp. If the oil is extracted properly, the THC content can be managed during extraction. So, what’s the big deal? DEA and police have enough druggies to chase, so it must be BIG Pharma trying to control their losses by any means possible.

    Reply
  5. TERRANCE C. MORAN on

    The USDA sampling technique is fair top 1/3 of plant below flower, consistent with OECD, Canadians.
    Much more generous than many state programs. This is the one item the USDA got right industry should be happy.

    Reply
  6. terri miller on

    Two main issues should be addressed when it comes to the sampling process:

    -A chain of custody from sampling agent to lab. 3rd party agents and/or law enforcement may be involved in this process. Samples must be processed in a timely manner, and they still must travel by car or thru the post. A real-time chain of custody with applicable data for law/postal agents would aid in this.

    -Geo-specific tagging of the sample plant would allow the farmers to find hot zones on their field in order to address them, to have the data to petition their state to harvest compliant crops and could serve to show regulators and stakeholders about how, where and under what conditions the plant grows hot.
    Data should really come before regulations, but it’s not too late to put the horse back in front of the cart.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *