Colorado Hemp Testing Compliance: What You Need to Know

Colorado Hemp Testing Compliance: What You Need to Know

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Colorado leads the way as one of the biggest hemp markets in the country. Its industry is thriving, with more licensed acreage than any other state in the US. Colorado is also setting a precedent for compliance standards.

Last year, Colorado implemented new guidelines for hemp sampling, testing, and labeling, going far beyond the USDA’s mandates. Colorado’s rules are complex and exhaustive, making it challenging for hemp operators to remain compliant.

Fortunately, ACS Laboratory is now certified to test hemp in Colorado, and we're ready to support producers, growers, and brands navigate the regulatory landscape.

Testing Industrial Hemp Flower in Colorado

In October 2021, the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) rolled out new regulations for unfinished hemp flower. Here’s what farmers and cultivators need to know:

Pre-Harvest THC Potency Testing

The CDA now requires growers to submit pre-harvest samples for Delta-9 potency testing. The state wants to verify that hemp products do not exceed the legal limit of 0.3%.

To submit samples, growers must commission authorized hemp samplers to collect representative plant material 30 days before harvest. The licensed hemp sampler must then submit the material to a CDA-certified lab like ACS to verify that the hemp contains compliant THC levels.

For growers whose hemp tests higher than 0.3% THC, remediation is possible in some instances.

For example, when hemp tests higher than 0.3% THC but under 1% THC,  growers can remediate the lot using one of two approved methods: separating and destroying the flowers while retaining the stalks, leaves, and seeds, or blending the entire hemp lot to create biomass. If the grower wants to remediate the lot, they must first fill out a Remediation and Disposal form to notify the CDA of their desired methods and expected completion date.

However, if hemp ever tests higher than 1% THC, growers must destroy the plants, either on-site at the production facility or by contacting the CDA or local law enforcement.

Laboratory Sampling Requirements

Colorado allows two basic laboratory testing methods to determine the THC content in a sample–Gas Chromatography and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. Both will yield comparable results with a small margin of error.

Once the CDA receives the results, it will round the data to the most significant two decimal points to determine compliance. Producers are responsible for locating a qualified laboratory and reporting the results to the USDA and CDA.

Hemp Product Testing Rules

In addition to hemp biomass, Colorado requires that hemp companies test final products for THC potency before they’re eligible for sale. To remain compliant, hemp brands must also publish THC content per serving (such as one gummy) and per finished good (such as the entire bag of gummies) on their packaging.

This standard applies to consumer hemp goods like edibles and cosmetics. For hemp products like tinctures, the label must also list each isolated cannabinoid and the total amount in milligrams. Essentially, the new regulations treat cannabinoids like food ingredients.

In addition to potency testing, Colorado wants brands to ensure their products are free from harmful substances. As a result, Colorado requires hemp products to be tested for 106 different pesticides, more than any state in the nation. It also requires products to pass stringent tests for heavy metals and mycotoxins, among other contaminants.

Colorado's latest wave of regulations could pave the way for more to follow. For instance, states like New York are already updating their testing requirements. So, staying ahead of the curve is vital for a hemp brand with a nationwide focus.

Navigating Testing Scenarios

Testing requirements can get tricky for operators up and down the supply chain. Thankfully, Colorado created a chart of common hemp testing scenarios to set the record straight. Let's review some common scenarios.

For Industrial Hemp Growers

Hemp farmers and producers who grow plants to sell to extractors only need to verify the total THC content through third-party testing. The responsibility for finished product testing falls to the extractors.

For Unfinished Hemp Products

Some companies have no intention of creating a finished hemp product. Instead, they refine or remediate hemp into other unfinished products. These operators only need to worry about potency testing.

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For Brands That Make Finished Hemp Products

What about brands that receive unfinished hemp material, which they formulate into new products, like food or cosmetics? If the unfinished hemp has only undergone potency testing, then a brand must test for:

  • Potency
  • Microbials
  • Mycotoxins
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy Metals
  • Residual Solvents

However, if the unfinished hemp already underwent testing for heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, and residual solvents, the brand only needs to submit samples for potency and microbial analysis

For Vertically-Integrated Hemp Companies

Let's say that a company handles everything in the hemp manufacturing process –from growing plants to labeling finished products. These operators must conduct the following test with a certified Colorado testing laboratory.

  • Plant potency
  • Product potency
  • Microbial
  • Mycotoxins
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Residual solvents

Essentially, if a company handles everything from start to finish, they're responsible for the full range of compliance panels throughout the manufacturing process.

Delta-8 Rules

In May 2021, Colorado banned growing hemp for synthetic cannabinoid production. As a result, modifying or converting naturally occurring cannabinoids into synthetic cannabinoids is non-compliant with the state's definition of "industrial hemp products."

This legislation effectively makes it illegal to produce chemically modified or converted cannabinoids in Colorado, like delta 8, delta 10, and other synthetic THC isomers. As a result, the state does not include testing rules for these illicit products.

Bottom Line

Colorado's new testing regulations set a higher standard for hemp products and could pave the way for similar legislation across the country.

To help brands navigate Colorado's stringent standards, ACS Laboratory established a National Hemp Testing panel that complies with all of Colorado’s rules. As a state-certified laboratory, we test for all mandated cannabinoids as well as contaminants like mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, and microbiology.

Then we publish the results in English and Spanish Certificates of Analysis (COAs), so brands can prove compliance to regulators and consumers alike.

Contact us today for more information on Colorado Hemp testing.