Hemp farming became theoretically possible across the country via the passage of the federal Farm Bill in 2018. But each state was tasked with developing a farming plan. Texas’ plan was approved the US Department of Agriculture in late January of this year.
Industrial hemp by federal law must have no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight in order to qualify as such and not be treated as marijuana. The distinction between the two is based solely on the expression of this lone constituent, which is the psychoactive fraction of the plant and which is still a schedule one controlled substance subject to enforcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration. All hemp plants, whether they’re called ‘industrial’ or are classified as ‘marijuana,’ are Cannabis sativa (material referred to as Cannabis indica is also in the market, but it’s a matter of debate whether these plants are truly a separate species).
Texas lays out rules for THC testing
So it’s a matter of critical importance to make sure a crop doesn’t come in ‘hot.’ Hemp farmers have been relying on seeds with particular genetics to achieve this goal, as well as having experience with how those plants perform in their location. As hemp farming in Texas is so new, there is a pressing need to develop real time information to see how various strains are performing.
The Texas hemp farming plan includes specifications for how testing of the crop should be done. According to the state an analytical testing lab must be able to check the following boxes:
(1) laboratory quality assurance must ensure the validity and reliability of test results;
(2) analytical method selection, validation, and verification must ensure that the testing method used is appropriate (fit for purpose) and that the laboratory can successfully perform the testing;
(3) the demonstration of testing validity must ensure consistent, accurate analytical performance; and
(4) method performance specifications must ensure analytical tests are sufficiently sensitive for the purposes of the detectability requirements of this subchapter.
Santé Labs president Mike Sandoval said his company is ready to fill that need. The company claims to be both the first and the largest ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited, privately held and independent testing laboratory in Texas.
Lab grew from internal needs
Sandoval said Santé was founded a couple of years ago to do hemp extract product development. The company more or less fell into the testing regime because of its own need for high throughput, reliable testing.
“Santé labs has been commercializing a drug delivery model to apply to cannabinoids to render them shelf stable. What we had observed was that there was little shelf stability out there, and very little consistency lot to lot,” Sandoval told NutraIngredients-USA.
“As we were scaling up our GMP compliant manufacturing capabilities we engaged in the process of identifying external labs to work with. We could not ID a single lab in the US that could give us the repeatability and accuracy we were looking for. So we invested the capital and developed our own lab as if it were a blank slate,” Sandoval said.
“From all of our conversations with hemp farmers in the state, they were having trouble finding lab help, too. So that’s when we decided to throw the doors open to become a third party lab for anyone in the industry,” Sandoval added.
Sandoval said Santé Labs will be able to provide scientifically valid testing services such as assay testing (total THC and other cannabinoids), pesticide residues, terpenes heavy metals and microbial examinations to agricultural, processing, retail and biopharma hemp communities in Texas and beyond.
Looming major player
The company is in on the ground level of what could be one of the biggest hemp growing regions in the United States. At the moment most hemp is grown in states that had a head state in hemp legislation, such as Colorado, Kentucky and Oregon. But as the market opens up to more and more regions, Texas, with its 127 million acres of agricultural and ranch lands and generally favorable weather stands to become one of the major players.
“Making Texas the leader in hemp will require unprecedented collaboration across the hemp ecosystem, with laboratories, farmers and processors coming together like never before,” said Lisa Pittman, co-chair of Coats Rose P.C.'s Cannabis Business Law Group. “I am confident Santé Labs will harness the power of science to swiftly deliver exceptional service to a new industry, an industry grounded in compliance testing.”