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Author: Lee Vernon

Veterans Scientific Laboratories: Setting a new standard in Hemp Testing?

It is getting about that time in Texas as we are weeks away (by the time this article is published) for farmers to begin harvesting their hemp crops. With that, Texas and Federal Law dictate that all hemp production be tested for THC limits as well as other things such as pesticides and harmful products. The law states that hemp can not have more than .3% THC content, or the crop has to be destroyed (refer to your state and/or local laws pertaining to THC amounts and disposal processes). I got to spend the afternoon with James W Johnson Jr. (Co-Owner) of Veterans Scientific Laboratories which has 25+ years experience in analytical analysis in cannabis, environmental, and medical fields to discuss what to look for and why testing is so important as a farmer growing.

Lee: James, why did you start Veteran Scientific Laboratories?

James: As a military veteran, I spent 8 years as a medical lab technician with the United States Air Force so medical testing is something I have experience in. There are many labs that do a great job of being transparent and accurate with testing. But there are just as many out there that decide to engage in some unethical things like alter readings in order to skirt the rules in order to make a buck. That in turn not only hurts the farmer that grows hemp, but the entire industry as a whole as that dishonesty can cost people their jobs, hemp businesses, and in some cases legal repercussions. The hemp industry is a new open frontier, especially here in Texas so setting a standard that goes above the minimum in order to bring consistency and integrity was something I wanted to be apart of in order to help farmers and the industry grow in a positive way.

Lee: You mention farmers quite a bit in our conversations. I know here in Texas many farmers in their inaugural year of planting did not do to well. Aside from issues with poor seed genetics and other regional issues, how did testing play a role in helping or hurting farmers?

James: In 2016 I assisted Oklahoma hemp farmers with obtaining their permits to grow hemp for fiber with my company JJGro. That was a huge learning experience as hemp was not allowed to be grown or produced there prior to 2016. So, I was able to see all of the good and the bad that took place during that transition. Once Texas passed legal growing and the first licenses were issued in 2020, I saw many of the same issues come up again. What was consistent is the fact that many farmers lack a true and thorough understanding of how the industry works and confusion on many of the laws set in place by the state when it comes to growing. That lack of education is what can make the difference of a farmer being successful or failing. I want to assist farmers with providing education and knowledge on what it is they are growing and to help set them up for success. The relationships that were formed with JJGro and the assistance of the Oklahoma process, Veterans Scientific Laboratories was formed.

Lee: I agree. Growing up in the farm and cattle ranching industry as a kid, farmers are the foundation that helps this country stay fed and clothed. Even today, deals in the farming industry are still done with a hand shake in many cases.

James: Exactly! That is what I love about the farm industry, a hand shake still means something. Your word still means something to the men and women that are out every single day growing commodities that keep this country moving. Unfortunately, that is something that has been lost in many other industries, even the hemp and cannabis industry due to technology. The fact that I am working with people that still believe in a hand shake and your word has value, brings a lot of satisfaction as well as it is something farmers still look for and believe in.

Lee: How is Veterans Scientific Laboratories helping farmers in the Texas hemp industry?

James: First is offering farmers FREE education when it comes to farming hemp and assisting them through the legal and state process so they can start off on the right foot. At VSL, we educate farmers and others on the difference between “industrial” hemp and “medical or consumable” hemp with our Hemp 101 seminars. Those growing processes are different and knowing the kind of hemp one intends to grow allows that farmer to set up their farm operations the correct way and depending on the type of crop (industrial in particular), set up those important contracts prior to planting a seed so they are not stuck with 100’s or 1,000’s of pounds of product rotting in a storage facility. That is just one example of how some industrial hemp farmers got burned in 2020 as they planted and farmed industrial hemp without ever having a contract in place for someone to buy it. Educating is just one way to build trust amongst the farming community which allows us to continue to help and serve the foundation of an industry growing in its infancy here in Texas and abroad.

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Description automatically generatedLee: I love that VSL has a real education process. That is a service that I have not seen by any other lab in the industry. So, VSL is more than just a testing lab?

James: Absolutely we are! We pride ourselves on being a critical asset to our clients in more ways than just testing. As I said earlier, I want to help farmers succeed so to do that we go above and beyond the norm. Our lab director Garvin Beach runs our ISO/ IEC accredited lab and handles various testing options such as potency testing, full panel testing, hemp fiber analysis, and etc. But we also assist with shipping and storage of product, research/equipment consultation, and brokering of sales for tested products if a client needs those additional services.

Lee: For new farmers to the industry, what are some general recommendations that you can offer them?

James: First, know your federal, state, and local laws. They are set up for the farmer to be in the know as they will be held accountable. Two, regularly test your crop! In Texas your limited to .3% Total THC. If that crop tests hot, then it has to be destroyed. So early and regular testing prior to cultivation is important to in order to know how your crop is progressing as far as Total THC potency levels and gives the farmer an accurate time frame on when to harvest their crop prior to it reaching unacceptable levels of Total THC. Third, especially if you are growing hemp for consumption and extraction, that farmers potential crop price will be based off a full panel test to show that it is clean of solvents, pesticides, toxins, mold and just as important, the quality of CBD and terpene content. Fourth, it is the law here in Texas as well as other states. In short, lab testing is something that everyone in the hemp industry needs.

Lee: How long does testing normally take?

James: If we are testing for fiber, that process normally takes about 5 days due to the manual process that we have to go through for that testing. Potency and full panel testing normally takes about 72 hrs or we can knock it out in 24 hrs if a client needs it expedited. All in all, we are pretty quick at getting that done as we understand time is money when it comes to crops and getting those crops sold.

Lee: Last question before we go. What do you want clients to remember about VSL as far as a reputation and what VSL stands for?

James: That’s easy and the core is something that I brought over from my military career. Integrity first and foremost, service before self, and excellence in all that we do and provide for our clients. Add a lot of humor into that mix and we have what we believe is a recipe for success that translates into success for our clients.

Lee: James, thank you so much for allowing us into your amazing facility and teaching us about the process of lab testing and giving us a personal look at how Veterans Scientific Laboratories is changing the hemp industry with professional services to help people be successful when it comes to the new commodity of hemp in Texas. If anyone has questions, concerns, or wants to know more about testing or growing hemp how can they get a hold of you?

James: They can visit our website at or or they can email me at [email protected] or [email protected].

Employees and CBD: Establishing Common Sense Policies & Guidelines

As the popularity of CBD (Cannabidoil) grows, so does the question of whether companies will allow their employees to use it or not. In this article we are going to look at some facts and ideas related to how companies can go about not only protecting themselves, but employees from potential pitfalls of not having policies in place pertaining to CBD use in the workplace.

One of the first questions employers ask about CBD, Is it legal? In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the Farm Bill) legalized CBD that is derived from hemp and contains no more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight). Notice the key word is CBD derived from “HEMP”, not marijuana. As far as state laws, hemp derived CBD with .3% THC or less is legal in all states with the exception of South Dakota per HB 1191, and with certain exceptions for Idaho Code§ 37-2701(t), and Nebraska LB657. As always, do your due diligence and double check your state laws. But overall, as long as it meets the federal regulations you are good to go in most states.

The next question that revolves around federal guidelines is how does one know if a certain brand of CBD is in compliant with federal and state laws? Well, this is where taking the time to check out manufacturers, labels, and product websites will pay dividends in preventing headaches down the road. There are four main things to look for and should be easily found with a specific product or manufacturer that ensures the product being made is legal and of high quality. Those four benchmarks are:

  1. Where is the hemp grown? Look for hemp that is grown in the United States. U.S. grown hemp has strict guidelines set fourth by the USDA pertaining to growing and the cultivation of hemp. If it is grown in the United States by a licensed farmer, then odds are the hemp meets federal guidelines. Whereas hemp grown in another country… well, who knows what you are getting.
  2. Look for a Certificate of Analysis. A COA shows the results of independent lab testing that checks for things like potency and contaminants. The batch number on the COA should match the number on the product’s label or packaging. A key component to look for on a product label is a QR code. This allows the buyer to download lab results for the product being purchased.
  3. Who and how is the testing done? When it comes to testing, it is always good to have a 3rd party independent testing facility that is doing the COA versus in house. A legitimate third party lab will not have any skin in the game and will give true unbiased results. Labs should meet ISO 17205 standards and have been validated by one of three national regulatory organizations such as the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, or the U.S. Pharmacopeia. 
  4. Look for comprehensive labels and potency. The label should match the COA results pertaining to the amount of CBD and THC described on the product in total and by dose. One should be leery of any label that is vague in ingredients, dosage, or COA information as many CBD products are found to be mislabeled or completely false. The more information provided on the label backed by a third party COA demonstrates a manufacturer/seller is open and honest with the CBD product they are producing.

Now that we have the Federal and State laws out of the way, what does it mean for a company? As an employer, can you demand or bar your employees from taking CBD? Technically, a business can write just about any policy they want for their business if it doesn’t violate fair standards and hiring. But let me ask you this, how can one with integrity prevent someone from taking an over the counter supplement in their off time that is legal if it meets federal and state guidelines? As of today, there is no test currently on the market to test just CBD. So, you can’t test to see if anyone is on CBD. Since there is no “psycho-active” effect with CBD products no one would ever be “under the influence” of said product. Now what can happen, is someone deciding to take a CBD product that contains the legal amount of THC (which is up to .3%) and potentially test positive for THC on a drug test. Again, this puts everyone in a sticky situation as they did not break any law other than failing a drug test simply because their CBD contained the legal amounts of THC. That is why it is important for people who are prone to drug testing to ensure that their CBD is THC FREE. On a side note, as the employer, you want to ensure that any drug test is THC specific. One of the most accurate tests currently on the market is a saliva swab test rather than some urine tests. (My next article will discuss issues and solutions pertaining to drug/THC tests.)

Here is my thing on that and this is just my opinion as a safety professional for nearly three decades. Since CBD does not negatively affect ones cognitive or physical performance when it comes to doing a task or job, one cannot use the argument of being “under the influence”. I discussed in my last article the positive benefits of CBD and employee performance when CBD is allowed to be used. Can an employer with sincerity and integrity be able to give a compelling argument to not allow employees to use CBD? I can not think of any other than that one nasty word that companies fear the most… liability. Let’s brainstorm on some commonsense options that can be written into policy that could reduce liability to a minimum, yet support the workforce to show a genuine interest in their health and overall wellbeing.

First, whether you are for or against CBD use, an employer needs to have at a minimum a clear and concise policy stating such. Not having one, opens the door to all kinds of issues and confusion when an employee is considering the use of CBD. What if an employer does want to allow CBD use? Depending on the size of the company and number of employees, a policy could be put in place that addresses the issue on a case by case basis. There are several situations health wise where CBD use makes sense and could benefit both parties. Again, there is no “one size fits all” solution and simply consider doing what makes the most sense for the company at that point and time.

If a company is large and wants to put a general policy in place to allow use and dependent on the state, an employer could possibly include a “prescription” or doctor letter clause that would allow CBD use while under the supervision/direction of a doctor or medical professional. That way if one tests positive for something, then all parties are covered. Noticed I said test positive and not under the influence. This clause is common for people that must take certain medications that are classified as narcotics or other drugs that are not normally allowed when drug testing is done within a company. It essentially allows an employee to take such medications when off duty/work or in some cases while at work if needed such as Adderall or Zoloft.

What if a company is in support of CBD use, but is adamant that their employees not test positive for THC? Creating a list of approved CBD retailers and manufacturers could be a viable solution. Yes, it does require a little work and research, but if a company is willing to invest a little time into vetting legitimate and reputable CBD manufacturers, then it benefits their employees with valid and reputable CBD products which would eliminate any potential of said employee testing positive for THC. If an employer was to use the four benchmarks to find reputable CBD vendors as discussed earlier, then a company can create a list of options for their employees that are 100% THC free for them to choose from, so they do NOT test positive for THC.

These are just a couple of ideas that are currently being used now with success. With the rise and legalization of CBD we are experiencing a revolution of sorts that requires educating and adapting to new trends. Over the next few years there will even more potential issues for states depending on if marijuana is decriminalized or legalized at the federal level. We are already seeing states where marijuana is legal having to make important changes to hiring and drug testing practices due to the laws. Since CBD is now legal, you might as well address the issue sooner rather than later and having sound policies in place will save a lot of potential grief not only to the employer, but the employees as well. Whether you are against or for CBD, it is here to stay.