Do We Have Enough DEA-Registered Labs to Implement Hemp Program?

As hemp growers finish harvesting the 2023 crop, they should plan for 2024. In 2024, the USDA will fully enforce the Domestic Hemp Production Program rules, requiring all hemp to be tested by DEA-registered facilities beginning January 1, 2024. Initially set for 2023, this rule was postponed due to a lack of testing capacity. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has compiled a directory of DEA-registered testing facilities for controlled substances, including hemp testing. This directory aids growers in locating nearby DEA-registered facilities for compliance.  Labs fluctuate, but in general, the number of testing facilities has increased since the 2018 Farm Bill/inception of hemp production in America.

Federal regulations outline hemp testing requirements within state and tribal production plans. These rules necessitate samples taken by sampling agents within 30 days of expected harvest to test total delta-9 THC concentration, which should be below 0.3% on a dry weight basis. A 95% confidence level ensures that no more than 1% of plants exceed the permissible THC levels (greater than 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis).

Thinking about this for the future, how does the current testing infrastructure track with reported planted acres?  Looking at the 2022 Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) reported acreage, there is no statistical relationship between the number of hemp acres and the proximity of a county to a DEA-registered testing facility on the AMS directory. However, with the new requirement for all hemp to be tested in registered facilities, we will likely see a shift in future county hemp production to correlate more closely with testing facility proximity.

Without a correlation between hemp acres and testing facility location at the county level, we turned to evaluate the relationship between reportage acreage and access to DEA-registered testing facilities by state.  The map highlights reported hemp acres planted in 2022 by state and the number of hemp testing sites by state. Those states with considerable hemp acreage and less testing infrastructure are shown as light green in color (Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas), and states with adequate testing infrastructure for the state’s sizeable hemp acreage as dark sea green (Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, and North Carolina). As the industry begins to mature, we expect planted hemp acres to be more correlated to the location of registered testing facilities.

The numerical values on each state on the map are the calculated ratio of 2022 reported hemp acres planted /divided by the number of testing facilities in the state. For example, in Texas there are 133 acres of hemp planted per testing facility. Note that the states without a ratio label represent states that do not have any testing facilities despite having hemp acres planted in 2022.

This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, grant no. 2021-68006-33894/project accession no. 1025097, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and should not be construed to represent any official USDA or U.S. Government determination or policy.

Goeringer, Paul and Elizabeth Thilmany. “Do We Have Enough DEA-Registered Labs to Implement Hemp Program?Southern Ag Today 3(45.5). November 10, 2023. Permalink