Hemp and CBD products were legalized in all fifty states of the United States in 2018 via the Farm Bill 2018 enactment. Hemp has been used by several civilizations for making paper, clothing, and as a source of medicines. However, mainstream hemp production has received the impetus only after the recent changes in the law for wider acceptance and industry use.
Instinctively, the acceptance of hemp as a legally grown crop and its acceptance in industrial products is witnessing the growth of CBD and hemp-related sales. The rapid pace of the growth of this industry is huge. The hemp and CBD products are forecasted to increase to a billion-dollar market in a couple of years.
Diverse applications in cosmetics, food, and beverage, and over-the-counter pain medication are some of the common uses of hemp products that a common person will encounter.
A thin line of difference between hemp and cannabis
Cannabis is used for medical or adult recreational purposes and hemp is derived from the same plant Cannabis Sativa. However, the potency level of the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC of hemp has to be less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. The THC potency of medical and recreational cannabis is at a higher level.
The wafer-thin margin level of potency of THC is difficult to maintain and establish.
Compliance and regulatory requirements are very strict about the potency of THC in hemp-based compounds. For people dealing in CBD and hemp-based products, including the end user buyer, it is very important to establish the reliability of the facts stated on the label of the products.
The credibility of a product can be ensured through regular third-party testing and quality control.
Importance of third-party testing
The importance of third-party testing is not a statutory requirement. But to establish the earnestness of a company in complying with the stringent potency margin requirement and to establish the safety of their products, most manufacturers resort to third-party testing.
The use of hemp in the modern world is relatively new and people who intend to use these products need to build their trust.
Most products are typically advertised through word of mouth or social media influencers. There is no mechanism for consumers of CBD products to ensure that the products they buy are safe to use. Hence, if a product is passing through a reliable and trustworthy process of testing by a laboratory that has gained relative expertise, the end user is not skeptical about their purchase.
Based on the lab test reports, the label of the product will display the potency, terpenes, and other residual content levels to clear the perspective of the retail buyer.
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What is tested in hemp and CBD products?
Third-party labs receive samples of hemp and CBD products from growers and manufacturers. Ideally, the sample is dried for more than twenty-four hours. In case the sample cannot be dried then it has to be frozen at minus twenty degrees temperature. There are five important features tested in hemp and CBD samples namely:
The THC or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol levels of hemp and CBD products are less than 0.3% on their dry weight basis. For instance, a kilo of dry hemp sample cannot have more than 3gms of THC to be legally compliant. This margin is very thin and is recognized by USDA as difficult to meet. So if there is a marginal difference in THC, a manufacturer is not held legally liable. However, the product containing a higher level of THC than the threshold limit needs to safely dispose of the entire consignment.
Few states insist on the total level of THC and THCA as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA, a non-psychoactive compound changes to THC upon heating.
There are different methods to identify the potency level and the most commonly adopted method is a high-performance liquid chromatography method that determines the THC concentration in a given hemp sample. It helps differentiate structurally similar cannabinoids like isomers and identifies the exact total level of THC and THCA.
Terpenes offer the smell and taste of hemp products. Few terpenes have a citric smell and offer distinctive value to hemp products. It is found in aromatic herbs like sage, basil, and thyme. In cannabis plants, there is a hypothesis that the terpene profile also influences the efficiency of a hemp product.
For example, two different cannabis products with similar concentrations and strains of THC will have different effects as pain oil depending on the terpenes level. The right terpene level will yield the desired level of CBD product utility.
Hemp is grown in different geographical locations which vary in the soil’s natural mineral content. Few soils have higher concentrations of zinc, nickel, cobalt, arsenic, chromium, and other heavy metals that are not safe for human consumption.
These elements are absorbed from roots and retained in plants’ flowering parts and leaves. Testing labs determine the toxic levels of the heavy metals
With help of polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, the presence of pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and mold are identified. By determining the DNA sequence of the pathogens this test delivers a rapid result which is essential in containing microbial contamination that spreads very fast.
For instance, the presence of Clostridium botulinum is a major food safety concern as the botulinum toxins under low oxygen conditions, cause major health hazards that damage the nerve and respiratory functions of the body.
Labs test cannabis plant samples for hemp and CBD products for any residual pesticides that have not been washed off properly before harvesting the crop.
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Trust in the product is gained over time when consumers ensure that a standard protocol is followed in processing it from seed level to supermarket counters.
When companies establish this trust by engaging third-party testing facilities that have expertise in testing for cannabinoid potency levels and the rest of the important aspects, the credibility of the product is ingrained, and brand image is developed.