MDARD institutes testing standards for hemp


Michigan has instituted emergency rules for an emerging crop.

In August, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development implemented testing standards for industrial hemp. The rules are pertaining to the sampling and analytical testing methods for measuring the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the crop.

The crop must not exceed 0.3% of THC content on a dry weight basis. Once the crop surpasses 0.3% of THC, it is considered marijuana. The emergency rules cover a variety of issues, including the destruction of industrial hemp plots, test samples, testing facilities and licenses.

According to MDARD, the emergency rules apply to all registrants and licensees, and they are as follows:

  • A grower that intends to harvest or destroy an industrial hemp plot shall schedule a test of a sample of the plot by a testing facility.

  • A grower shall submit a representative sample of their plot for testing, which must include leaves and pistillate inflorescences.

  • The department must prescribe sampling procedures and publish the sampling procedures on

  • The testing facility shall test the sample not less than 15 days before the intended harvest or destruction date.

  • All samples become the property of the department.

  • The testing of industrial hemp must be completed by the department or by a testing facility.

  • Samples must be tested in accordance with ASTM International or other nationally or internationally recognized test methods, or any other validated method approved by the department.

  • All tests must be performed post-decarboxylation.

  • Testing performed by a test facility, at a minimum, must include quantitative laboratory determination of delta-9 THC concentration on a dry weight basis. 

  • A registrant or licensee or the department may conduct additional testing on their industrial hemp, including cannabidiol and cannabidiol acid levels, foreign matter inspection, pesticides, microbial and mycotoxin screening and chemical residue, fungicides, insecticides, metals screening, residual solvents levels, terpene analysis and water activity content. 

  • The testing facility must provide the grower and the department a certified report stating the results.

  • A grower shall harvest their compliant plot within 15 days of receiving the final test results, including retests. Noncompliant plots must be destroyed pursuant to the destruction order issued by the department.

  • If the department determines, based on a certified report, that a plot or product is noncompliant, the department shall issue a destruction order.

  • The department shall identify in the destruction order the plot to be destroyed and the date by which the destruction must occur.

  • The destruction order may require a method of destruction and may require the department oversight of the destruction. 

  • A grower shall comply with a destruction order issued by the department.

  • All registrants and licensees are subject to inspection and sampling by the department at reasonable times to ensure compliance with the act.

  • Failure to comply with an inspection may result in the initiation of enforcement proceedings.

  • Either the registrant or licensee or agent of the registrant or licensee shall be present for the inspection and sampling, and they shall provide the department with unrestricted access to all industrial hemp. 

  • All cannabis material is subject to sampling and testing to verify the delta-9 THC concentration does not exceed 0.3% on a dry weight basis. 

  • The department may collect and test individual or composite samples of each variety of cannabis from the registrant’s or licensee’s land area.

  • All samples taken by the department must be representative samples.

  • The cost of testing must be paid by the registrant or licensee, and the department may annually change the fees for testing. 

  • The department shall deny any registration or license application or renewal application for any registrant or licensee who has not paid all the fees it is assessed by the department under this rule. 

The rules will be in place for six months, and if necessary, the time will be extended, according to MDARD.

James DeDecker, director of the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center, said the biggest game-changer is if a sample of a grower’s crop is found to have higher levels of THC, then the grower will have to destroy their entire crop.

Another concern DeDecker said he has is incorrect sampling. While there are consequences outlined in the rules for registrants and licensees who do not comply with the sampling submission, he fears there might be an issue regarding the initial submission by registrants and licensees.

“There is really nothing stopping a grower from submitting a sample that was either collected incorrectly or is not representative of the crop they are saying it is representative of,” he said. “As far as integrity in the THC testing process here, I think there will be a little bit of a challenge (knowing whether growers are) submitting their own sample.”

The process is contrary to states like Wisconsin, which requires state inspectors to do on-site sampling of hemp fields.

The emergency rules follow the state’s initiation of its Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program in April. The pilot program allows farmers, processors, colleges and universities to grow, cultivate and market Michigan industrial hemp for the 2019 planting season.

The program is the first of its kind in the state. However, the state also must incorporate using an older law.

“All of the regulatory framework that is required to carry out the 2018 Farm Bill, which is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is not in place yet,” said Eric Anderson, field crops educator for Michigan State University’s St. Joseph County Extension Office. 

As a result, Michigan is using the 2014 Farm Bill to dictate how the pilot program operates.

“Michigan’s pilot program allows our farmers to explore the production and processing for hemp to determine whether or not this is a financially viable crop for them,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD director. “It also helps pave the way for Michigan growers as we move toward a permanent licensing program next year to identify and expand value-added hemp processing and new market prospects.”

According to MDARD, since the pilot program was launched for the 2019 planting season, there have been over 541 hemp grower registrations that cover over 32,243 acres, and an additional 389 processor-handler licenses have been issued.

Anderson said the grower license only allows the grower to grow hemp. They cannot harvest or sell the crop. He said the processor-handler license permits the licensee to process, store, ship and sell, but if they would like to grow the crop, they also will have to get a grower license.

Hemp has over 50,000 different uses, including clothing, handbags, shoes, ropes, canvas, tarps, soaps, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, hemp seed oil, paper and more, per MDARD.

Now that hemp is legalized at the national level, Anderson said it allows for the state to grow the crop instead of importing it from other countries. There are three main reasons growers and processors use the crop. 

Anderson said it is used for fiber, seeds or CBD, but the pilot program only allows for research purposes. However, because the crop was planted so late because of weather, the time in which applications were accepted and the licenses were approved, the harvest date will be pushed back, hampering some parts of the research effort.

Anderson said the crop usually is planted in late April to May, but because of the different circumstances, the crops were planted in June and July. He said it usually takes about 120 days before the crop is ready for harvest, depending on the intended use.

“Harvest the flower, before the plant is pollinated and the seeds start growing, for CBD,” he said. “Harvest the seeds when 70% of the crop is ready to have mature seed harvested and the fiber from the stem of the plant thereafter.”

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