Is the future of the US CBD hemp industry in danger?

8th September 2021

A new study has found that commercially available CBD-rich industrial hemp strains may contain too much THC – a finding that could put hemp growers at risk of losing their livelihoods.

According to Forbes, a new report by the University of Georgia, businesses in the hemp industry could face a massive challenge if their hemp strains contain an illegal amount of THC, the most popular psychoactive compound of cannabis.

In the US, the legal threshold for THC in hemp is 0.3% – everything above that is called “hot hemp” or “hot crops” and is federally illegal.

If farmers realise that their hemp contains illegal levels of THC, they must destroy them, at their expense. As the Forbes report states, making “hot hemp” is a waste of time and could generate huge losses for hemp businesses.

Researchers found that most of the 22 commercially available industrial hemp strains “have shown inconsistent performance and chemical profiles” and they were “far from” having the necessary levels of CBD and THC they should’ve had.

They analysed 137 flower samples to test for cannabinoid content. In some cases, THC levels reached an astonishing level of 11.08% THC by dry weight.

Eighty-nine plants produced flowers with more than the legal limit of 0.3% THC.

Shockingly, one plant that is sold as a “high-CBD line” contained more than 10% THC by dry weight, meaning it is both legally and functionally a drug-type cannabis plant.

The report concluded that the current market for high-CBD hemp is too unreliable and purchases are “risky” for growers as they cannot know if they could get the certification – certificate of analysis (COA) – that proves the products don’t contain an illegal amount of THC.

They said: “Given the variability, we found both among and within accessions, some sort of standardisation is needed so that a producer can be confident in the material they receive.

“A good first step would be for suppliers to start using unique names for each of their accessions. Not only will this help clarify the market, but it will also allow each company to capitalise on branding their own unique varieties.

“A more complex but badly needed step is an industry seed-certification process to allow growers to purchase with confidence. Some states are already moving forward with their own seed certifications but until rigorous, independent verification is implemented across the industry, growers face the prospect of getting a bad lot any time they purchase from a new supplier.

“Ultimately, these and other changes will need to occur to make the market for high-CBD hemp robust, reliable, and sustainable over the long-term.”

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