Finding a quality lab can be difficult. This blog will help you understand one of the key items...
Hemp Lab Testing...what's the point?
The hemp industry is held to strict regulations that vary by authority. All hemp businesses are encouraged or mandated to test their products to comply with laws and regulatory legislation. But what gets tested, how it is analyzed, and why is it needed?
Today, I’ll share with you the journey your product takes. I’ll cover…
- What services are offered by hemp testing labs
- What happens when a lab receives your hemp
- What equipment is used for testing hemp
- Other things hemp testing labs can do
What services do hemp testing labs offer?
Before sending your hemp for testing, you should first ensure the lab can do the tests required by regional and national laws and regulations. It helps to also work with a reputable hemp testing lab that can analyze several factors for quality and safety, such as THC, pesticides, and heavy metals.
Upon test completion, you’ll receive a Certificate of Analysis (COA). The COA is packed with test information and results for your hemp. For instance, when we test your hemp for Heavy Metals, your COA will let you know how much Mercury, Arsenic, Lead, and Cadmium are in your hemp.
Your COA can then be used as proof of quality and safety. You can also use it to assign a price according to the sample’s contents.
Following the industry standard, we send COAs via email as PDFs. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
After choosing a hemp testing facility, you’ll need to send them samples. Size matters, so make sure you double-check the requirements for each test. For example, a THC potency test at AIT requires 2g of dry hemp flower, 20g for wet hemp flower, or 0.5g for any extract, concentrate, or finished product.
You also need to provide the lab with information like your name, company name, address, phone number, sample ID number, and which test the sample should undergo.
Once the facility receives your sample and documentation, it will be administratively processed. The assigned administrator will start a detailed chain of custody to keep your sample safe and trackable.
Your sample will then go to the laboratory, where analysts prepare it for testing. Because each procedure has different preparation requirements, there may be added fees to prep your sample. For instance, hemp flower/buds must be dry for testing, and your lab may require that you send it dry, offer a drying fee, or dry it as a complimentary service.
Here's the general process for most samples:
- Homogenize the sample and take a representative amount
- Weigh the material and put in an acid mixture, such as acetonitrile
- Vortex, sonicate, and centrifuge to extract and separate the mix
- Filter and measure the sample for the specific testing instrument
At this point, the sample and controls go into the instruments in test batches.
Labs often test in large batches in specific intervals due to inefficiencies in analyzing low quantities. AIT runs each machine once a day, no matter how many samples arrive, to guarantee a quick turnaround.
After the test is complete, the instrument may prepare a chromatograph that a skilled chemist analyzes. Quality checks are also performed at this point.
Lastly, the test results are recorded on the COA and emailed to you.
What equipment tests hemp?
Testing hemp is a complex and sensitive process that differs from the quick and easy tests for other materials, like wheat grain. The complexity of analysis is why hemp testing labs often use robust mass spectrometry instruments.
What’s mass spectrometry?
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions. The results are presented as a mass spectrum as shown in the chart below:
Mass spectrometry instruments require analysts with advanced chemistry degrees and backgrounds. The results are not just displayed—chemists must analyze the data.
Hemp Testing Instruments
- LCMS-8060 Triple Quadrupole Liquid Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (LC-MS/MS)
- Used for pesticides, mycotoxins, and cannabinoids
- Triple Quadrupole GCMS-TQ8040 NX with Smart MRM
- HS-20 NX Series Headspace Samplers
- Used for residual solvents, terpenes, and some pesticides
- Used for cannabinoids, but not in their acidic state like CBDa
- Converts the particles to CBD due to the heat
- Not a 1-to-1 conversion
- Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry
- Used for heavy metals
- High-performance Liquid Chromatography
- Used for cannabinoids and some mycotoxins
- Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction
- Used for microbials
- Fast and highly accurate for diagnosing some infectious diseases and genetic changes
- Finds the DNA or RNA of a pathogen (disease-causing organism) or abnormal cells in a sample
What else can a hemp testing lab do for me?
Help you understand the results
Is there a value in your COA that doesn’t make sense? Or are you completely overwhelmed by the results? Don't worry!
Your lab should want to answer all of your COA questions. It’s easy to become perplexed by the information on your COA, but a good lab will help you understand everything.
Help you find the source of failing results
If a particular analyte produces a failing result, a skilled lab can help you uncover possible causes.
Help you develop a personalized testing plan
Your lab can help you decide when you should test your hemp. Think of your testing lab as a partner and communicate your business goals. Here at AIT, this is one of our favorite things to do for customers.
Help you optimize extraction/formulation processes
It takes time to fine-tune your equipment and schedules. But, you can save ample time and money by knowing when to test while growing, extracting, and formulating. A knowledgeable lab will help simplify the process for you.
Help you understand each available test
Your hemp testing lab should walk you through each test that’s available to you. You should know
- What the test is for
- Which tests are ideal for you
- Why those tests are better than others
- How to use your test results for marketing
Help you see how the lab fits into your program
Many hemp businesses are seeking certifications or accreditations now that compliance and regulatory guidelines are increasing across the industry. And some qualifying authorities request evidence that you use a hemp testing laboratory that meets specific quality standards.
Your hemp testing laboratory should supply the necessary documentation to satisfy your needs. Come to AIT if they don’t; we’re more than happy to help.
As you can see, correctly testing hemp is a complex process that requires specific equipment, skills, and education. However, when done by a reputable hemp testing laboratory, you should feel confident you can build trust with buyers. And your buyers can be sure that they’re buying quality hemp from you.
Using a third-party lab, such as AIT, also helps you build credibility and authority for your business as you improve your hemp’s quality through expert guidance. So, reach out right away if you want accurate and unbiased test results alongside experience-driven advice to help you grow better hemp.