Pennsylvania Issues THC Hemp Testing Guidance

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Steve Schain: Hoban Law Group

In a July 24, 2019 dated guidance, Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture (“DOA”) announced it will be randomly collecting and testing hemp variety samples from 25% of licensed hemp growers for tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) content.

The DOA’s hemp sampling occurs 70-80 days after planting and consist of only female flowers or buds clipped from plant’s terminal points with the top 2-3 inches per plant collected with minimal stem material. The sample shall be collected from random points throughout the growing site for the individual variety to obtain a sample representative of the variety to supply between 4-6 oz of plant material to the lab (an average of 50-80 flowers or buds sampled).

Additionally, the DOA requires all permit holders to hire a private laboratory to test floral material of all hemp varieties and supply it with a Certificate of Analysis (“COA”) of each hemp variety planted’s total delta-9 THC% (although hemp processors or retailers may require testing as to CBD, heavy metals or pesticide levels).    

Pennsylvania’s testing method analyzes total delta-9 THC%, on a dry weight basis, using a post decarboxylation method. Samples are analyzed by Gas Chromatography-Flame Ionization Detection which decarboxylates the THC-A, converting it through heating to THC, which goes on to be quantitated by the instrument system.

COA are to be received by the DOA prior to transporting harvested hemp from the permit holder’s property/storage location to a processor, handler or retailer. Results that are returned with a THC% of less than 0.3% will be cleared by the DOA, and the permit holders may move forward with processing or sales. Results that have been returned with a value of over 0.3% will be subject to a re-sampling and testing at permit holder’s expense. If the second testing would result in a THC value of over 0.3%, the program will issue control orders to the permit holders for destruction of that variety.

To address law enforcement or transporter questioning of transported materials, the DOA encourages delivering or shipping samples to laboratories to include hemp permit and any seed/transplant varietal documentation.


Steve Schain is a Senior Attorney to Hoban Law Group and admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Steve represents entities, governments and individuals in choosing a structure, preparing and submitting license application, regulation, compliance and litigation, and drafting legislation. A nationally recognized consumer finance litigation, banking law and cannabis law expert, Steve is a The Legal Intelligencer and Cannabis Business Executive columnist, frequent Pennsylvania Bar Institute and National Bar Institute author and lecturer and serves as a court appointed judge pro tempore and arbitrator.

This article has been prepared for informational and general guidance purposes only; it does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained herein without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication. Hoban Law Group, its members, employees, and agents accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based thereupon.


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