What to Know About Processing Hemp

What to Know About Processing Hemp

Posted by Meghan Gregory on Jun 9th 2021

Due to the relative youth of the modern U.S. hemp industry, best practices and broadly agreed-upon standards are still coalescing. One area where lack of alignment in expectations can cause difficulty is the delivery of CBD or other cannabinoid-rich hemp biomass from a farmer to a processor. If biomass does not meet certain specifications, was prepared or stored incorrectly, or does not have the required compliance credentials, among other issues, the result could be a slower, less efficient extraction process, or the processor may reject the biomass altogether.

Hemp biomass needs to be tested by a third party ahead of processing for THC content, microbials, and contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals. Requirements vary state-to-state and some processors have their own in-house standards. Additionally, certain events or situations can prompt the need for testing, such as the historic wildfires that recently impacted southern Oregon’s hemp crop. Farmers in the vicinity of the wildfires may want to perform tests for heavy metals and other contaminants that might have gotten onto plants via the smoke from the blazes.

If harvested hemp is to be transported it also needs to have a certificate of analysis (COA). Less than half of [cultivators] do this. Farmers should be potency testing … while the crop is in the field, to know whether it’s getting hot or not. In order to avoid hot hemp issues, farmers should do four to six potency tests per season for every ten acres being grown. If it’s getting hot, it’s time to harvest it!

“Hot” hemp – that is, hemp that contains more than the legal limit of 0.3% THC – is one of the biggest issues in the industry. Processors say some hemp farmers are not paying close enough attention to the THC threshold.

In the past there was some regulatory flexibility regarding hemp potency, and that biomass and other plant material sometimes “slipp[ed] through the cracks” of enforcement by state regulators. Now, however, “those cracks have closed”.

Once a farmer has ensured that their crop is compliant and properly credentialed according to the requirements of their state, certain considerations in the process of harvesting and drying hemp should be taken into account to help ensure that the resulting product is marketable.

I’m against drying hemp in the field before processing, since dirt, sand, and other debris sticks to hemp trichomes and can ultimately damage processing equipment. There is also a risk of wind blowing the hemp away and loss of cbd content.

Having clean hemp biomass is essential, especially if it has been dried and stored for a while before processing. “A good smell, no pests,” is what you’re aiming for.

Hemp cultivators should grow only as much as they are capable of handling. Some farmers don’t have the manpower or the drying space to handle large yields. Think quality over quantity.

If you do grow on a smaller scale you will need to find a processor that will have a lower minimum. Some processors won’t take less than 10k lbs. or less than a certain % of CBD. You will also want to consider if the processor uses ethanol, CO2 etc.