Delta-9-THC is the psychoactive molecule that binds to cannabinoid receptors to produce the psychoactive effect commonly referred to as ‘getting high.’ The 2018 Farm Bill recently removed Cannabis sativa plants that have delta-9-THC levels equal to or below 0.3% from the list of controlled substances and defined them as industrial hemp.

All industrial hemp must be tested for total delta-9-THC before harvesting to ensure that Cannabis plants that are grown do not exceed the legal threshold of 0.3%. Any plants that exceed the 0.3% total delta-9-THC limit are required to be destroyed, so choosing the proper variety of industrial hemp is extremely important for growers, as different varieties or strains  can produce different levels of delta-9-THC.

Sample Collection

A sample collection must be scheduled with LDAF by submitting a Harvest Report.

LDAF will contact the grower to schedule the pre-harvest sample collection. The licensee or designated responsible party must be present while LDAF is sampling from each plot where industrial hemp is growing. A fee of $250.00 per plot must be paid by the licensee at time of sample collection. If the plot is not harvested within 30 days of sampling, the plot must be resampled and tested.  A $250.00 testing fee will apply to the resample.

Laboratory Testing

Once samples are collected, they are sent to the LDAF Agricultural Chemistry Laboratory for testing of THC levels using liquid chromatography. Both the delta-9-THC and the delta-9-THC-A (the acidic form of the cannabinoid which can be converted into delta-9-THC) is considered. It is important to note that that the 0.3% THC calculations are for total delta-9-THC (THC + THC-A) and performed on a dry weight basis.

After the testing is completed, the results of the THC test are provided to the licensee via email. Industrial hemp that tests under the threshold will be issued a Notification of Analysis (NOA) by LDAF and can be harvested, transported, processed, and sold.

Processors are also required to have their processed industrial hemp products tested at an approved laboratory. After testing, approved samples will obtain a Certificate of Analysis (COA) that verifies the potency (< 1% total THC and <0.3% delta-9 THC) and safety of the product for contamination by pathogens and other toxic substances. The COA must be obtained for the products before they can be sold.

If the official pre-harvest sample collected by LDAF tests above the 0.3% delta-9-THC threshold (commonly referred to as testing ‘hot’), the plot must be destroyed or remediated then resampled and tested.

Sample Remediation and Crop Destruction

There are two remediation options for ‘hot’ crops. Bioremediation, by shredding the entire plant and creating a biomass-like material to lower the delta-9-THC content of the sample, and second, by removing and destroying all flowering material from the other plant material.  In both cases the remediated material must be resampled, tested and the test results be compliant with the 0.3% total delta-9-THC threshold.

If a resample tests above the delta-9-THC level, no plants from that plot can be processed, sold, or otherwise entered into commerce. Prior to destruction, the licensee must submit a Destruction report to LDAF and receive written approval.

The industrial hemp that tested hot must be destroyed by a USDA approved method under the supervision an authorized representative of the LDAF.

USDA guidelines for sample remediation and disposal guidelines can be found here.

Performance-based Sampling

Industrial hemp lots produced for research purposes may not be subject to THC sampling and testing requirements when the following requirements are met:

LDAF may inspect, sample, and test any industrial hemp plants or plant parts, at any time to ensure compliance.

LDAF may conduct random inspections, including records reviews on researchers, regardless of whether they are subject to the sampling and testing requirements.