By William Sumner, Hemp Business Journal
Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its interim rules for the federal domestic hemp production program. For most state-led hemp programs, no changes are forthcoming, though one notable exception affecting hemp testing represents a major issue.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant… with a Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The USDA’s interim rules share that definition. Yet, buried in the text are new testing standards which fundamentally change that definition, thereby presenting a risk to cultivators.
The new rules state that hemp samples “must be tested using post-decarboxylation or other similarly reliable analytical methods where the total THC concentration level reported accounts for the conversion of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into THC.”
Parsing the difference between THC and THCA
To casual observers, it may seem a non-issue; THC is THC. Yet, that is not entirely accurate: While THC is the chemical component responsible for the intoxicating effect of cannabis, THCA is a non-psychoactive compound having very different properties. When THCA is heated, it goes through a process called decarboxylation, thereby converting to THC.