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A Beginner's Guide to Hemp Tests

As we have been talking with customers the question we get the most is "I have x type product, what all should I test for?". Below you'll find we put together a brief overview for each test we provide for hemp.

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Potency/Cannabinoid Profile

What does a Potency Analysis include?

Hemp Potency Analysis is used to determine the concentrations of THC and cannabinoid compounds within the product using an HPLC. There are 12 compounds you will receive data on:
  • delta 9-THC
  • delta 8-THC
  • THCA
  • CBD
  • CBDA
  • CBDV
  • CBG
  • CBGA
  • CBN
  • CBC
  • CBL
Results are reported in %, but totals can also be shown in mg/g or mg/serving, which is typically used more in finished products. 

Why are Cannabinoids tested?

Delta 9-THC is the component used to verify that the industrial hemp product is below the 0.3% level which is mandated under the 2018 Farm Bill. This includes two analytes, Delta 9-THC and THCa and are used in a formula to get the total THC. The additional cannabinoid results are generally needed to determine pricing and product formulation. 


What does a Pesticide Analysis Include?

Our industrial hemp lab uses both GC-MS/MS & LC-MS/ms to give the most accurate testing of pesticides. The primary standards run  at our lab are the Oregon standards which comprise of 59 pesticides, including:
Abamectin Cyfluthrin Imazalil Piperonyl_butoxide
Acephate Cypermethrin Imadacloprid Prallethrin
Acequinocyl Daminozide Kresoxim-methyl Propiconazole
Acetamiprid Diazinon Malathion Propoxur
Aldicarb DDVP (Dichlorvos) Metalaxyl Pyrenthrins
Azoxystrobin Dimethoate Methiocarb Pyridaben
Bifenazate Ethoprophos Methomyl Spinosad
Bifenthrin Etofenprox Methyl Parathion Spiromesifen
Boscalid Etoxazole MGK-264 Spirotetramat
Carbaryl Fenoxycarb Myclobutanil Siromaxamine
Carbofuran Fenpyroximate Naled Tebuconazole
Chlorantraniliprole Fipronil Oxamyl Thiacloprid
Chlorfenapyr Flonicamid Paclobutrazol Thiamethoxam
Chlorpyrifos Fludioxonil Permethrins Trifloxystrobin
Clofentezine Hexythiazox Phosmet  
Other state standards are available upon request.

Why are Pesticides tested?

It is crucial to validate that products do not have pesticides over the action limits. Many pesticides are very toxic to humans. The plant can test positive for pesticides through a few avenues: farmers using pesticides on the plants, farmers using pesticides on another crop near the industrial hemp or through the soil from previous years.

Heavy Metals

What does a Heavy Metals Analysis include?

This test determines the amount of Heavy Metals in a product using an ICP-MS machine.
The four leading heavy metals tested in industrial hemp labs are:
  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury

Why is hemp tested for Heavy Metals contamination?

Heavy metals can enter a plant and product through various sources. The most common means are through the soil and fertilizer; however, many other avenues can cause detection of heavy metals, such as water and/or containers the product comes in contact with. Heavy Metals are also present in many vape pens/cartridges, increasing the importance of producing a COA proving your product didn't have contaminants present. Then if  there is an issue later in the supply chain, it can prove the product was contaminated later in the process. Many government entities are mandating testing with the following action limits: Cadmium 0.5 μg/g*, Arsenic 1.5 μg/g, Lead 0.5 μg/g and Mercury 3.0 μg/g. These limits are even smaller when the product is respirable.
*μg/g is commonly referred to as parts per million, or ppm.


What does a Mycotoxin Analysis include?

Our industrial hemp lab tests for the following Mycotoxins using an LC-MS/MS:
  • Aflatoxin B1
  • Aflatoxin B2
  • Aflatoxin G1
  • Aflatoxin G2
  • Ochratoxin A

Each analyte can be tested down to 1 ppb to give you highly accurate results.

Why is hemp tested for Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are not a new contaminant to the commodity industry. Large commodity industries, such as grain, require mycotoxin testing on most lots of grain before shipping and selling. Most Industrial Hemp standards in the United States are mandating that the levels be less than 20 Parts Per Billion. Mycotoxins ingested can cause a wide range of adverse and fatal effects on humans and livestock.


What does a Terpenes Analysis include?

There are 22 different Terpenes that our industrial hemp lab tests for using the GC-MS/MS with headspace injectionn and can be tested down to 0.03 mg/g.
Terpinolene α-Terpinene Eucalyptol
β-Ocimene y-Terpinene Geraniol
β-Caryophyllene α-Humulene Guaiol
δ-Limonene δ-3-Carene Nerolidol
β-Myrcene α-Bisabolol Ocimene
β-Pinene α-Pinene p-Cymene
Isopulegol Camphene  
Linaloon Caryophyllene Oxide  

Why are terpenes tested in hemp?

As the Industrial Hemp industry grows, so has the interest in Terpenes. Terpenes are the compounds that give the plant it's unique flavor and fragrance, as well as many healing properties.  Many businesses are finding ways to differentiate their product with Terpene profiling, including using consistent terpene rations in formulation to provide the customer with a consistent experience each batch.

Residual Solvents

What does a Residual Solvents Test include?

The industrial hemp test for residual solvents includes reporting the presence of ethanol, butane, propane and hexane. The GC-MS/MS with headspace injection can detect and report on small traces of 24 different solvents. The action levels AIT uses as default are those in Oregon, other standards can be discussed. The primary standards run at our lab include:
1,4-Dioxane Dichloromethane Methanol
2-Butanol Ethanol Pentanes3
2-Ethoxyethanol Ethyl Acetate Propane
2-Propanol (IPA) Ethyl Ether Tetrahydrofuran
Acetone Ethylene Glycol Toluene
Acetonitrile Ethylene Oxide Xylenes4
Benzene Heptane 1 n-butane and iso-butane
Butanes1 Hexanes2 2 n-hexane, 2-methylpentane, 2,2-dimethylbutane, 2,3-dimethylbutane
Cumene Isopropyl Acetate 3 n-pentante, iso-pentane, neopentane
Cyclohexane   4 o-xylene, m-xylene, p-xylene

Why are Residual Solvents tested in hemp?

Residual Solvents hemp testing is done on Industrial Hemp extracts, from crude oil to isolate, as well as finished products. Solvents are needed to extract the cannabinoids, such as CBD, from the industrial hemp plant. The test verifies that the solvents have been evaporated completely off the remaining product. 

Water Activity/Moisture

What are Water Activity and Moisture tests and what do they include?

There are two different water-related measurements for cannabis: moisture and water activity.
Moisture: Measures the amount of moisture in the sample generally by taking the original weight and heating the sample repeatedly until the weight remains stable. That new weight is the sample dried out. That dried weight divided by the initial weight is the moisture.
Water Activity: Measures how tightly bound the water's available energy is on a scale of 0 to 1. When the numbers are higher, it means the water is more easily accessed. Zero is completely dry and 1 is pure liquid. When the sample is above 0.65 it is shown that the product is more susceptible to mold growth.

Why would you test for Water Activity/Moisture in hemp?

Water Activity Testing is recognized for its safety to cannabis edibles; it is also vital for the storage stability of harvested buds and extracts. Water Activity also controls the rate of decarboxylation that can lead to the breakdown of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Many producers will test their products for moisture and/or water activity during the drying process to ensure they are getting to the appropriate level before storing. This helps reduce the risk of mycotoxins and microbial growth. These tests are also a common and essential test between the buying and selling hemp plants/biomass and smokeable hemp.


What does a Microbials test include?

We test for six different microbials:
  • Total Yeast and Mold: The total amount of live yeast and mold present per gram per sample tested (measured as colony-forming units per gram (CFU/g))
  • Salmonella: Presence/absence (pass/fail) test. Any trace of salmonella detected results in a fail
  • E. coli: Presence/absence test. Any trace of E. coli detected results in a fail
  • Total Aerobic Count: Total amount of bacterial contamination per gram per sample tested (measured in CFU/g)
  • Total Coliform: Total CFU/g per sample tested
  • Bile-Tolerant Gram-Negative Bacteria: Total CFU/g per sample tested

Why would you test hemp for Microbials?

Testing for Microbials ensures that your product is safe for humans to use, including inhalation, skin absorption, and ingestion. The microbial that we evaluate can be toxic and dangerous to consumers. Those who are immunocompromised are exceptionally susceptible. Some of these pathogens can even be deadly, especially at high levels. E. coli, Salmonella, and Total Yeast and Mold are the basic microbials tested in hemp. Many buyers have started requiring a combination of microbials up to all six listed.


Determining which tests you need for your product can be difficult. Along with the information above, it is great to always check with the potential buyers of your product, to verify what your minimum testing requirements should be. Many hemp businesses choose to do additional testing on top of those requirements to be used like an ‘insurance policy’ on your product. It gives proof that your product was not contaminated at time of sale. Many buyers of hemp will require more testing at the end of the process, and if the product tests positive, they will be looking who to put blame on.

We could talk about hemp testing all day, I mean it's what we do everyday!
Check out our Free Hemp Testing Basics Guide to further your knowledge on using hemp testing to increase the salability and profitability of your hemp products.