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Hemp quality standards cut delta-8 THC from consideration

U.S. Hemp Authority Seal
U.S. Hemp Authority, whose “H” logo graces top-shelf quality brands, is seeking public input on its just-released version 4.0. The looming deadline is June 15.

The hemp CBD industry’s leading quality standards-setting organization proposed that buzzy delta-8 THC products do not qualify as legitimate legal products outside of marijuana dispensaries.

While the U.S. Hemp Authority in its three previous iterations of standards prohibited products from being certified if they marketed intoxicating effects, its 29-page version 4.0 makes prohibition more clear.

The language now reads that prohibited hemp products “include delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, delta-10 THC, THCO, HCH, exo-THC.”

“It is our policy,” said U.S. Hemp Authority President Marielle Weintraub, “that intoxicating products are better treated and regulated akin to adult-use cannabis, requiring additional oversight, warnings, testing and consumer packaging guidelines.”

People can comment on the proposed updated standards until June 15 first by reading the proposed standards here, and then commenting via email to [email protected] 

Delta-8 was tacitly made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill when the legislation defined hemp as being limited only by its delta-9 THC content, which must stand at less than 0.3 percent. Because there was no mention of any other isomer, and delta-8 does provide a mildly euphoric effect, hemp innovators have introduced delta-8 products. These products have been especially popular in states with no access to adult-use marijuana throughout the South and Midwest.

Some legislators have taken notice, and delta-8 is outlawed in 13 states—Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah and Washington. Another seven states have regulated or restricted delta-8, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Mississippi, Michigan. Another four states—Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma and Oregon—are in the midst of reviewing its status.

Changes to broad- and full-spectrum hemp definitions

The other major proposal in the draft 4.0 is a 10-page overhaul of hemp industry nomenclature, from acceptance criteria and adulteration to terpenes and validation.

The biggest part of this is the acceptance of broad-spectrum hemp extracts and full-spectrum hemp extracts. This is a potential major sticking point because the American Herbal Products Association released its own set of definitions in May 2021 that reflect botanical industry definitions, which in these two cases stand in stark opposition to common usage in the hemp industry.

In talks between the two organizations, AHPA’s definitions have changed to reflect the realities in the hemp industry.

“There are some differences in the U.S. Hemp Authority definitions, such as “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” (which more closely aligns with current hemp industry convention) as compared to those terms defined by AHPA,” said Weintraub. “Recently, notes have been added by AHPA calling out those differences and they have accepted portions of definitions supplied by the U.S. Hemp Authority in order to more align our two glossaries, as both have been designed to support the hemp industry and consumers.”

Broad-spectrum hemp extract, according to the proposed USHA standards, is defined as “an extract derived from hemp that is comprised of naturally occurring cannabinoids in which intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) have been removed to non-detectable levels using a compliant laboratory and fit-for-purpose methods with a limit of quantification of less than 0.01%. In addition, broad spectrum extract must not be formulated with the addition of one or more isolated cannabinoids. If isolated cannabinoids are added, see “fortified broad spectrum hemp extract.”

Broad Spectrum Hemp Finished Products, meanwhile, must not be formulated with the addition of multiple isolated cannabinoids. If isolated cannabinoids are added, that makes it a “fortified broad spectrum hemp finished product.”

Fortified broad-spectrum hemp extracts may be formulated with the addition of one or more isolated cannabinoids, a distillate, resin, or other such hemp ingredients. If isolated cannabinoids, a distillate, resin, or other such hemp ingredients are added, the quantitative amount of the isolated cannabinoids, distillate, resin, or other such hemp ingredients must be listed on the ingredient label. Of note, the extract does not need to be labeled as a “fortified broad spectrum hemp extract.”

A standard full-spectrum hemp extract or finished product must not be formulated with the addition of one or more isolated cannabinoids. If isolated cannabinoids are added, that makes it a “fortified full-spectrum hemp extract or finished product.

Quality is the name of the game

Companies that make it through the U.S. Hemp Authority’s standard get to put the certification’s tell-tale “H” on product labels. The whole idea is to ensure that ingredients and productrs are handled to maintain product integrity, and are labeled to represent their contents truthfully and clearly. Employees must be trained, and documentation of quality practices must maintained to verify product quality, authenticity and traceability.

“I think it’s a great idea and could help to separate good brands from meh brands,” said Elan Sudberg, founding chair of the AHPA cannabis committee. “The key will be, do consumers care or even know what it means?”

He said it is paramount for brands to do their part to market the H logo, and the work they do to differentiate their respective brands’ quality standards. Sudberg has been hard at work the last few years in the larger supplements industry to convince supplements finished product brands that, if they are spending such large sums on ingredient testing validation, they should market that investment.

The hemp industry is actually ahead of the larger supplements industry in adopting QR codes that share quality data with consumers.

“Trust is an endangered species,” said Sudberg, “and I wholeheartedly believe transparency is the last and most underutilized value proposition we have left.”

The deadline for submitting comments and suggestions for the U.S. Hemp Authority version 4.0 quality standards is June 15. To read the draft, click here. To comment, send an email directly to [email protected] 

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