The relatively new legal U.S. hemp industry has sparked a demand for THC-free cannabis products. As a result, hemp producers are looking for ways to remove even trace amounts of THC from their hemp extracts, a process known as THC remediation.
Demand for THC-Free Products
Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill legalized hemp production and catalyzed the rebirth of the hemp industry in the United States. Coupled with a growing base of evidence for the benefits of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD, demand for low-THC, CBD-rich hemp products soared between 2014 and 2020.
Although hemp belongs to the same species as the highly intoxicating, high-THC varieties of cannabis, it is naturally low in THC. However, most hemp strains still produce trace levels of this illicit cannabinoid.
According to federal regulations, hemp-based products must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. But certain states have passed stricter laws requiring hemp products to be completely THC-free. Additionally, some consumers would like to try CBD but worry that trace levels of THC may cause them to fail an employer-mandated drug test.
What is THC-Remediation?
To meet federal and state requirements as well as consumer demand, producers have developed methods to remove THC from their hemp extracts. Collectively, these methods are termed THC remediation.
THC remediation can refer to methods as simple as dilution to more advanced chromatography techniques. However, all THC remediation methods involve the concentration of CBD (or another desired cannabinoid) and removal of THC from hemp extract. Depending on the method used, producers can reach up to 99.9% CBD purity.
THC Remediation Methods
The best THC remediation method will depend on the level of THC input, the desired final THC concentration, the scale of production, and the skill level of the operators. Additionally, multiple methods can be combined.
In its simplest form, THC remediation involves dilution. This low-tech method was favored in the early days of CBD’s rise in popularity. Producers would combine extracts of varying concentrations of CBD and THC to achieve specific ratios for different therapeutic effects. CBD oil manufacturers today still use hemp seed or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil to dilute THC levels within an acceptable range.
As the demand for CBD in isolation increased, producers started turning to more advanced methods of THC remediation. Crystallization is a very common method as CBD crystallizes easily. In addition to THC, crystallization also removes other unwanted compounds such as pesticides. Flash chromatography is another popular method that uses pressurized gas to achieve molecular separation at a faster rate in comparison to traditional gravity column chromatography methods.
The Future of THC Remediation
Some players in the industry are now hoping to completely skip the analytical techniques and remove THC at the source. Based in Lafayette, Colorado, the agricultural biotech company Front Range Biosciences is using selective breeding to develop hemp strains that produce zero THC.
With approximately half a million acres of hemp and more than 20,000 growers in the United States, THC remediation will continue to be an important step in the production of hemp-based products. Do you know how much THC is in your final product? Encore Labs provides quality assurance and R&D cannabinoid testing services so you can be confident that your extracts meet state and federal requirements for THC levels.