Laboratory testing ensures that agricultural products meet certain safety standards set by the United States Agricultural Department (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cannabis is no exception.

More and more states have elected to legalize cannabis for either medical or recreational use. As a result, each state has been responsible for establishing its own guidelines for cannabis testing. But with hemp now legal at the federal level, the USDA has created its own set of federal guidelines and procedures for sampling and testing hemp.

USDA Hemp Testing Guidelines

Under the USDA’s new Hemp Production Program, identifying the concentration of THC is the only laboratory test explicitly required. That’s because for hemp to be considered a legal crop under federal regulations, it must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight.

The USDA outlines both sampling and testing producers for hemp. These procedures have each been released as separate documents from the official interim rules. This gives the USDA the flexibility to amend and update its sampling and testing guidelines as new technologies develop and the hemp industry evolves over time.

Regulatory Challenges: Staying Below the THC Threshold

A threshold of 0.3% THC allows little room for error when it comes to the final THC concentration in your crop. This poses a particularly challenging regulatory hurdle for hemp producers.

The USDA’s new rules are fortunately understanding of the statistical uncertainty inherent in sampling and testing THC concentration. The procedures allow testing labs to include the measurement of uncertainty when they report THC potency results. As long as the range of your THC potency results contains 0.3%, your crop can be considered industrial hemp.

The USDA also realizes that some growers may fail to meet the 0.3% THC threshold despite their best efforts. Soil, climate, and a variety of other conditions can cause certain traits to differ from crop to crop, even when relying on seeds or clones from the same strain.

In cases where test results above 0.3% but below 0.5% THC, growers are not considered to be in violation of federal law as they likely did everything in their power to produce a crop that meets USDA guidelines. However, hemp crops that surpass the 0.3% THC threshold are considered a controlled substance and must be disposed of in manner compliant with the Drug Enforcement Administration regulations.

What Else Should You Test?

While THC concentration is the only required testing parameter for hemp producers, other tests can help ensure the quality of your cop. Aside from THC potency, you should consider testing for:

Testing Your Hemp With a Trusted Lab

When it comes to testing your hemp crop, there’s a lot at stake. That’s why it’s important to find a lab you trust. Encore Labs is an ISO-accredited California lab that specializes in analytical cannabis testing. With more than 25 years of combined laboratory experience, Encore delivers consistent and accurate analysis of your crop.