Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
A new genetic test to predict THC and CBD in industrial hemp — essential to determine if a plant is legally hemp or marijuana — could provide U.S. farmers a much-needed assist since THC doesn’t peak until plant maturity.
The level of THC in crops is particularly cogent given that if plants have more than 0.3 per cent, it ceases to be considered hemp under the law and is deemed marijuana, notes a statement from the University of Minnesota, which led a research team that developed the test.
The 0.3 per cent THC level for hemp is specified in law in both Canada (in the leaves and flowering heads) and the U.S. (on a dry weight basis). With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S., hemp was untangled from cannabis, which remains a Schedule 1 drug (like heroin and LSD) at the federal level.
Despite legal hemp farmers in the U.S. regularly obtaining a chemical analysis of their plants throughout the season, the university statement indicates that since THC levels peak at maturity, all their work could be for naught, with crops having to be destroyed if THC exceeds the federal ceiling.
Couple that situation with other challenging conditions for farmers. Hemp acreage in the U.S. more than trebled to about 285,000 acres in 2019 from 2018, but the lack of Food and Drug Administration rules around CBD, hemp oversupply, falling wholesale prices and questionable claims from some CBD purveyors has left some once-inspired farmers questioning if they want to hitch their wagon to another crop.
University researchers are hoping the new test can help avoid the risk of crop loss, ongoing challenges and last-minute stress linked to THC levels.
Published last week in the American Journal of Botany, researchers conclude that using THC level alone as the determining factor of what makes hemp or marijuana “doesn’t match the biology,” the statement notes.
“Instead, they propose using the ratio of THC to CBD to separate THC-type plants from CBD-type plants,” the university states. “The opportunity to know that seeds are CBD-type prior to planting is significant and seeds could be certified to guarantee consistency and quality,” it adds.