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TESTING HEMP FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE OTHER KIND


Issues concerning hemp testing to ensure THC levels are below 3% will plague growers in 2020. The federal government and related state agencies have confiscated an estimated $17 million in industrial value hemp on the "conclusion" that above the 3% threshold inexplicably turned hemp into marijuana. Thus, testing the levels of THC during the growing cycle are imperative if hemp farmer wants to survive as a grower.

At least in Pennsylvania, it is our intent to provide comprehensive testing and tracking services with a certified guarantee that if any testing or tracking services was inaccurate, Northridge Corporation will pay in full the value of the crop that was under our testing or tracking protocol.

... from our information desk.

What's the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Botanically, hemp and marijuana are from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, but from different varieties or cultivars. However, hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct forms of cannabis that are distinguished by their use and chemical composition as well as by differing cultivation practices in their production. While marijuana generally refers to the cultivated plant used as a psychotropic drug (whether used for medicinal or recreational purposes), hemp is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, paper, construction materials, and other manufactured and industrial goods.

As defined in statute, hemp must contain no more than a 0.3% concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC)—marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical. In general, a level of about 1% THC is considered the threshold for cannabis to have a psychotropic effect or an intoxicating potential. Some suggest that cannabis with a THC level of greater than 1% be considered a drug varietal (e.g., marijuana), with some suggesting that marijuana plants often have a THC level of 5% or more. In the United States, hemp varieties or cultivars having less than 0.3% THC may be cultivated under USDA-approved license as hemp, while plant varieties or cultivars having higher amounts of THC may not be cultivated as they are considered to have too high a potential for drug use.

Historical Perspective on the testing and tracking from California.

California’s cannabis testing industry was stressed to the brink in 2018, with newly required testing thresholds going into effect first in July 2018 and then in January 2019. The result at the time was long waits for test results, a temporary increase in product testing failures and various industry stakeholders arguing the state needed far more labs. Much of that, however, has changed since final regulations were adopted in January.

May happen in eights states during 2020.

Lab executives now generally report:

  • Their businesses have stabilized.

  • Wait times for testing results have become more predictable.

  • Product failures are down.

  • The 27 currently licensed labs are enough to handle the state’s testing workload.

“Things have definitely stabilized quite a bit. Right at July (2018), when testing was being enforced and mandated for the first time, there was a rush everywhere” for testing services, said Zach Eisenberg, vice president at San Francisco-based Anresco Laboratories.

Stabilization has occurred despite the fact only 27 licensed labs are serving the entire state market, while another 66 lab licenses have been canceled, surrendered, revoked or have expired, according to the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s licensing data.

However, plenty of issues still face California testing labs and the larger industry they serve.

“Everyone expected the market to be at a different point than it is right now. The trajectory that started in July last year … we’ve flatlined right now,” said Swetha Kaul, chief scientific officer at Santa Ana-based Cannalysis, referring to an apparently stagnated number of product batches that have been tested in recent months.

No labs at full capacity

“By and large, everyone has scaled up in terms of their capacity,” said Daniel Witt, president of Sonoma Lab Works in Santa Rosa, adding that most labs have the capacity to do more testing.

Lab executives said that indicates two things: 1. The legal market has not reached its full potential, since, if it had, it would produce far more samples for labs to test. 2.The number of labs may not expand much in the near future since there isn’t a need at the moment.

Lab consolidations overdue

“You definitely need a healthy number of labs, but you don’t need a really big number,” Kaul said. “California is still in the process of finding that healthy balance between what makes a good lab versus what’s easy for the regulators to oversee.”

Chasing clients on testing bills

Part of the problem is the illicit market is still so strong and undercutting legal retailers and growers. Many of those companies haven’t been able to – or simply don’t want to – pay the fees labs charge for testing services, said Greg Magdoff, CEO of PharmLabs, which has testing facilities in San Diego, Monrovia and Coachella.

It’s usually either because clients are strapped for cash or because they’re unhappy with the actual lab results on their products, Magdoff said. “One of the larger California companies, out of Northern California … they couldn’t pay their bill – a $5,000 bill. There’s a few companies that have no problem paying their bills upfront, but it seems like 70% of our clients need some net terms. It’s like not having $1 in your car to get over the toll bridge. … It leads me to believe that the entire industry is struggling.”

Other labs said they’ve had similar problems with clients skipping out on bills, but the consensus was that’s part of doing business in the current industry climate.

Misuse of lab names, results

Several labs reported that they’ve had to chase down instances with clients where a company has paid to have a small sample of a wholesale batch tested and then misrepresented to potential buyers that everything that was for sale was lab-tested. “We have people that will give us 5 grams of oil to test one time and then they sell off that (certificate of analysis) for a year,” said Antonio Frazier, vice president of operations at CannaSafe in Los Angeles. “We have to go after people sometimes. … If you want to certify bulk oil, there are certain ways to do it.”

One testing company – Santa Cruz-based SC Labs – has sent a flurry of cease-and-desist letter to companies. “My brand shows up on so many products that I’ve never heard of and I’ve never tested for, that it’s a bit frustrating. So we have a steady stream of cease-and-desist letters that go out,” said Jeff Gray, SC Labs’ CEO and founder. He estimated that SC Labs has sent up to 25 such letters in the past year. “We’ve just been really aggressive about challenging every instance that we can find,” Gray added.

Gray warned that other labs should remain concerned about the possibility of their professional credibility being usurped, especially given the recent vaping illness epidemic and the potential for labs to be roped into investigations if their names are falsely linked to vape products that may have contributed to the illnesses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the American public to know that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating component of the cannabis sativa plant, might not be as safe and effective in the grand scheme of their overall health and wellness as they are being told. The agency recently published a consumer update on its website (FDA.gov) that addresses some of the many claims surrounding this prevalent cannabinoid and attempts to dispel the notion that it is some kind of risk-free miracle drug.

Although the FDA is presently gathering data from health professionals, cannabis industry representatives and patients in hopes of learning more about how CBD might be used to combat (or even cure) the various blights to civil society, as for now, "there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD," the agency wrote. Therefore, the FDA wants to clarify a couple of critical points surrounding CBD before more of the public jumps on the bandwagon.

The FDA admits that it does not yet have a real understanding of the potential health risks (or benefits) associated with CBD. But liver damage is one of the side effects that it has uncovered in its limited study.

During the clinical trials for the CBD-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex, which was approved for the U.S. market just last year, researchers found the medication caused liver toxicity in some patients.


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