Arizona’s hemp is running hot.

The Plant Services Division of the state’s Department of Agriculture has reported around 41 per cent of the plants it analyzed failed to keep THC levels below the 0.3 per cent, as required by law.

“At 40 per cent, that’s off the charts,” said Sully Sullivan, executive director of the Hemp Industry Trade Association of Arizona, according to the Associated Press. “I’m taken aback by that. That’s substantial,” Sullivan said.

Arizona began issuing licences to grow hemp — marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin — last year and farmers planted their first crops a few months later. Dealing with a new crop is never easy, particularly one with the stipulations of hemp, and while other states have struggled to keep THC levels in check, few have experienced Arizona’s failure rate.

Farmers are required to destroy any crops that run too hot. / Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus iStock / Getty Images Plus

But John Caravetta, an associate director in the plant services division, wasn’t concerned about the poor results. “The failure rate is not unexpected based on anecdotal information from around the country regarding variable seed quality and genetic expression, for THC content, between the varieties planted,” Caravetta said.

Farmers are required to destroy any crops that run too hot, a huge financial setback that has prompted many growers to pay for periodic independent testing to ensure that THC levels remain under control.

Dustin Shill, head farmer for Arizona Hemp Supply Co., said he recently forked over US$12,000 for a batch of 10 tests.

“It’s a high-risk deal,” Shill said. “Right now, it’s just a shot in the dark really. It’s crazy. The THC and CBD go hand-in-hand. When it’s going up, THC is going up, so it’s a fine line to determine when it’s ready,” he said.

“But if you don’t spend that money and go into it blind, you’re just rolling the dice. You got to know when to harvest.”

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