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US (VA): Students conduct hemp research to help local businesses

In the basement of the Physics and Chemistry building, senior Rachel Stegmeier dried spiky green flowers in an oven, ground them in a food processor to a fine dust then sieved them with a mesh screen, filling the air with a distinct smell: cannabis. “It smells like exactly how you think it would,” Stegmeier said. Stegmeier didn’t dry and grind the cannabis for fun, though — she’s working with cannabis to research hemp. 

Stegmeier, a chemistry major and JMU Honors College student, is conducting research on the levels of CBD and THC within hemp plants for her honors thesis. Her goal is to establish a variation in the many different ways to measure CBD and THC in hemp, which can have large implications for hemp farmers. 

In 2018, the Farm Bill was signed into federal law, removing hemp with THC levels below 0.3% from the definition of cannabis. Stegmeier said when farms test over the legal limit of THC, farmers have to burn their crops. 

“When you analyze hemp, if it tests over it can result in a big financial loss,” Stegmeier said. “We’re looking at variations such as instrumental techniques, extraction, solvents — stuff like that.” 

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