Politics, Research

NIST Looks for Ways to Distinguish Retail and Medical Cannabis from Hemp

April 15, 2021 10:30 am ET
NIST Looks for Ways to Distinguish Retail and Medical Cannabis from Hemp

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, for short, will be conducting a study on obtaining accurate and precise measurements to distinguish the difference “between hemp and marijuana.” That statement alone stresses the need for a universal language to be adopted when addressing the cannabis industry. What NIST should be studying is how to accurately determine hemp from medical or retail cannabis.

The NIST study being conducted is part of the Cannabis Quality Assurance Program or CannaQAP. This program was implemented to help the forensic and cannabis industry learn more efficient methods for precisely measuring cannabinoids. NIST may want to start their study by heading to Ohio. The state of Ohio previously spent nearly a million dollars on a machine that was supposed to be able to quickly and accurately do just this. It seems like a waste of a million dollars to develop such a machine in the state of Ohio though they can probably make that money back on just a few arrests.

Currently, THC levels must be at 0.3% or less in the United States for cannabis to be considered hemp. This personally throws me in a big confusion. The labs that test the strength of cannabis or the levels of cannabinoids have a variant difference that goes up or down. It usually ranges around 10% in either direction. This means a strain that tests 20% THC might only have 10%, or it might have 30%, but it’s a safe bet to say it has around 20%. No wonder they have a hard time determining 0.3% THC.

Why It’s Important to Know How to Discern Cannabis From Hemp

One of the benefits of this study would be to allow labs to more accurately test for levels of cannabinoids. NIST made it clear they are not looking to undermine the ability of a lab to produce quality and accurate results. Instead, they are looking to provide a learning opportunity so that laboratories can become more efficient and use validated methods to obtain specific and precise measurements of cannabinoids.

Knowledge like this could greatly benefit many different people. The United States is currently in a state of confusion when it comes to cannabis legalization as hemp is legal to produce everywhere and medical or retail cannabis is not. If someone is suspected of growing retail or medical cannabis in a location they are not permitted to, and legal actions are taken, law enforcement needs to be positive they are acting appropriately. If you raid a hemp farmer’s house claiming they’re growing psychoactive cannabis, you might find yourself having a lawsuit against you.

In 2014, media reports indicated that police in Georgia actually raided an okra farmer’s house, believing he was growing the devil’s lettuce. That’s how easy it is for law enforcement to mistake cannabis. Imagine not being able to tell the difference between okra or a bud. As you can see, law enforcement needs all the help they can when it comes to identifying the difference between hemp and medical or retail cannabis.

Let’s Quit Clinging to the Past

Cannabis legalization is a beautiful thing. It is great to see people have access to this plant. Just the same, it is sad to see people still don’t have access to this plant. The prohibition of this widely misunderstood plant was built on a foundation of lies and falsehoods. It’s time to acknowledge the ways of the past were wrong and start correcting them.

Continuing to figure out ways to prosecute people for cannabis seems to be clinging to the past. Perhaps we should move forward and figure out how to settle this issue once and for all. Cannabis isn’t harming people. Those who support its overregulation and continued prohibition are.

It will be interesting to see what NIST concludes in their study. Especially how it may lay the groundwork for more precise accuracy in regard to cannabinoid testing in the future months and years to come as this plant finds its way back into legality around the world.

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