February 24, 2022
The Marihuana Act of 1937 banned hemp production in the U.S. The 2018 Farm Bill reclassified hemp and equalized it as other agricultural commodities. Although hemp is legal at the federal level, its production is still highly regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA released a Final Rule (FR) on January 15, 2021, which includes new federal guidelines for hemp testing. All hemp testing laboratories need to comply with the new rules to avoid heavy penalties or license cancellation.
Hemp testing laboratories need to adopt significant changes to comply with the new federal hemp testing rules. Primarily, all hemp testing laboratories should have quality assurance protocols in place for generating valid and reliable test results. Laboratories also need to homogenize samples prior to testing to prevent inconsistencies in test results. Moreover, laboratories should also implement internal Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for testing and retesting hemp and enforce their staff to follow the SOPs.
Following are the few necessary changes that hemp testing laboratories should adopt to comply with the FR:
An informatics solution such as a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) can help hemp testing laboratories digitize operations, assure high-quality test results, and enhance productivity. A LIMS automates entire laboratory workflows, test processes, and calculation of test results. A LIMS helps laboratories manage every gram of sample from accessioning to testing to disposal. It tracks samples through the sample lifecycle. It flags samples having more than 0.3% THC and enables laboratory managers to take necessary actions. A LIMS can help laboratories adhere to the USDA’s guidelines by enforcing staff to follow SOPs and tracking deviations from standard practices. It can be integrated with the reporting system of the USDA & the state department of agriculture for sharing certificates of analysis (COAs) in the required format. A LIMS provides easy and secure access of COAs to licensed producers through the client portal. Furthermore, a LIMS helps streamline QA/QC processes, manages staff training, and schedules calibration of analytical instruments, enabling hemp testing laboratories to easily comply with the new law.
Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp at the federal level, it did not remove strict regulations on hemp testing. The USDA introduced new federal guidelines on sampling, test methods, measurement of uncertainty, disposal of hot hemp, and reporting of test results. Hemp testing laboratories need to follow all the requirements stated by the USDA to comply with the new rules. Any violations could lead to heavy penalties and disqualification for hemp testing. A LIMS helps laboratories follow the new rules through operational digitization.