Colorado Just Announced Stringent New Rules for Testing Hemp. Will Other Cannabis States Follow?

As the cannabis industry waits impatiently for the FDA to finally pass CBD regulations, states are filling that void themselves, not only passing new cannabidiol testing criteria for over-the-counter products but strengthening the ones they’ve got.
Written by 
Joan Oleck, Cannabis Journalist.
|Last Updated:

The reasoning is clear: Pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins and microbials have all been found in CBD products, allowed to remain there by unscrupulous and sloppy manufacturers. And the resulting liability threatens all.

That’s why Colorado may be a role model. “Colorado’s new regulations are indicative of where things are going to go,” said Josh Wurzer, a chemist and president of SC Labs, said in a recent interview. His company, based in Santa Cruz, California and also operating in Oregon, has applied to yet more states — Texas and Colorado — for certification as a hemp-testing lab.

The company is not alone: Wurzer’s statement about “Where things are going to go” refers to the 30 states (and District of Columbia) already legal for cannabis, either medically, recreationally or both. Then there is hemp-testing, a predictor of things to come: Currently, 19 states have regulations or will soon, Wurzer said..

Take what’s happening in Colorado. Earlier this month, the Centennial State announced testing requirements for a long list of contaminants to hemp, including hemp-based consumer products. Previously, THC potency had been the state’s sole reporting mandate for hemp – because the federal rule is that hemp contain less than 0.3. percent THC, best known as the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

But as of this month’s announcement (going into effect in October), Colorado industry players must now test for 106 pesticides, a rule far more stringent than the 13 it requires for marijuana.

Hemp products are growing in Colorado. In 2018 a new state law declared hemp extracts in products to be fit for human consumption; the state also expanded the number of hemp companies that could use marijuana testing labs.

Now, the new Colorado testing mandates list pesticides, mycotoxins, microbials and more; also going into effect is a rule that companies must label their products’ cannabinoid content (in milligrams) and specific level of THC (if above the less-than-0.3 percent requirement).

These developments are positive news for Wurzer and his efforts to expand into into Texas and Colorado. In California, where Wurzer and his business partner, company CEO Jeff Gray, founded SC Labs 11 years ago, rules are few and far between for hemp (beyond the usual 0.3 percent THC limit); however, legislation is currently being considered to change that. Marijuana, meanwhile, said Wurzer, must be batch-tested for THC, pesticides, heavy metals, microbiological contaminants, mycotoxins and residue from processing chemicals.

“When all is said and done, everyone is expecting comparable testing requirements,” Wurzer said of hemp, predicting that California’s expected hemp rules will mirror those for marijuana.

For that reason, labs like his are gearing up to meet the new testing rules in Colorado; currently, only Denver-based Botanacor has that state authorization.

Wurzer said he expects his company to be next in line.

Still, the executive noted another consideration: “If [state officials] enforce the testing requirements, that’ll be the novel part,” he said. “In California they track and trace every batch of marijuana produced, for the full panel.” It remains to be seen whether hemp extracts in the Golden State will receive the same scrutiny.

Still, self-enforcement is not that unusual, Wurzer indicated. In Oregon, some of his company’s largest manufacturing clients are already testing for pesticides. “They spend a ton of money on testing, even though basically no one I’m aware of in the state is literally enforcing [Oregon’s] hemp-testing requirements.” Why are the companies still testing? Liability concerns.

“These are people who come from the pharmaceutical -testing world and food-testing world, Wurzer said, “and they understand liability and are building a brand for the future. They understand that testing is more than just a regulatory requirement; it’s ensuring that you have a safe product and are protecting yourself from liability.”

Joan Oleck
Joan Oleck
Cannabis Journalist
Joan Oleck is a freelance writer currently specializing in the cannabis industry and cannabis tech. She has been an editor and reporter on staff for such publications as, Business Week, Newsday and The Detroit News. She won the Jesse Neal Award for best feature series in a trade publication, Restaurant Business, and a GLAAD Award for a Salon story about discrimination in adoption against single and gay parents

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