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NIST Unveils New Hemp Reference Material to Enhance Cannabis Measurement Accuracy

NIST’s New Hemp Reference Material Will Help Ensure Accurate Cannabis Measurements

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is now selling a hemp reference material that will help laboratories accurately measure key components in cannabis plant products. This will help law enforcement agencies accurately distinguish between hemp and marijuana and will help manufacturers and regulatory agencies ensure that cannabis products are safe and accurately labeled.

Hemp and marijuana both come from the Cannabis plant. Before 2018, all cannabis plant material or products were controlled substances under federal law. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, which it defined as any cannabis material with 0.3% total THC or less. Cannabis with more than that amount of total THC is considered marijuana and is still a controlled substance under federal law.

This means that, to determine whether a material is a controlled substance, labs now have to measure the amount of total THC in it. However, recent studies, including one by NIST researchers, have found that THC measurements as shown on product labels are not consistently reliable, causing potentially serious safety and regulatory challenges.

The new hemp material from NIST will help address this issue by serving as a reference material — that is, a material that labs use to ensure the accuracy of their measurements.

The NIST Hemp Plant Reference Material (RM 8210) comes with an information sheet listing the precise amounts of total THC, CBD (a nonintoxicating compound with purported health benefits) and several toxic elements sometimes found in agricultural products, along with uncertainty estimates for each.

To ensure that their measurement methods are working properly, labs can analyze a bit of this material. If their numbers match those from NIST to within an accepted margin of error, all is well. If not, they’ll know they need to recalibrate their instruments or otherwise troubleshoot their methods.

“A farmer’s crop or a company’s product can be seized or potentially destroyed if it turns out to be a ‘hot’ material, so it’s important to make the correct determination,” said Walter Brent Wilson, one of the NIST chemists who developed the new reference material. Hemp, grown as an agricultural crop, is often used to manufacture textiles, paper and food products.

Although this reference material is composed of hemp, labs can use it to validate their measurements of both hemp and marijuana, and it will help companies in the fast-growing cannabis industry and state regulators ensure that cannabis products are safe and accurately labeled.

“If you buy a product that claims to have 25 milligrams of CBD per dose, you should be able to trust that number,” said NIST biologist Colleen Bryan, who was also on the team that developed the reference material. 

The NIST material also includes measurements for arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxic elements that many agricultural products get tested for.

“People who use cannabis for medical reasons may be particularly concerned about safety,” Bryan said. “This reference material will help ensure that the cannabis they buy does not contain unsafe levels of toxic elements.” …

Source: Midtown Tribune news, nist.gov

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