The more research that scientists invest in CBD and cannabis products, the more we are discovering the remedial benefits these products contain. At the same time, we are in the middle of the birth of an entirely new industry. In fact, the market has been so overwhelmed by the exponential growth of this industry, it is being coined “the green boom”.
While this is all very exciting for the cannabis industry and definitely suggests a step in the right direction, consumers still face some challenges. In the USA at least, cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, although hemp has recently been legalized under the Farm Bill. For the most part, that means that products go unregulated and unchecked by the FDA, putting more onus on the consumer to discern the safety of the product.
So how does the consumer tell the difference between a bona fide CBD product and a fly-by-night company desperate to make some quick money? Even dietary supplements do not require the rigorous testing that the FDA applies to other consumable products. Reliability is difficult to stumble across with products that can be purchased just about anywhere. And despite the excitement of the booming cannabis industry, CBD consumers should bring their discerning minds to the dispensary.
What’s even in my CBD products?
Don’t let marketing fool you. Every manufacturer is going to boost the scientific research behind CBD, the plethora of wellness benefits a consumer can receive and the life-changing effects that it has. While all of that might be true, without third-party testing, the label can say anything and the bottle can contain just about anything.
There was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which researchers tested 84 CBD products available on the market. In an attempt to understand how accurate the labeling was, they tested these products for their CBD concentration. They found that 26% of the products tested contained a lesser volume of CBD than advertised, some so low that they negate any medical significance.
NBC New York also decided to put some novel CBD products to the test. They tested 3 CBD oil products from 3 different companies and 4 different brands of CBD gummies. Alarmingly, less than half the products they tested contained the advertised amount of CBD. But what’s worse is that two products contained pesticides and lead greater than the Californian acceptable standards and what the FDA would even allow.
Ah, do we have something to worry about? It certainly seems that way. With so little regulation on the current cannabis market, some consumers are probably ingesting anything and everything without even knowing it. It compromises the legitimacy of the cannabis industry, with some products being potentially harmful rather than remedial.
Knowing how to shop safely
It’s pretty clear that consumers need to be the smarter part of this equation and to stop relying on labeling to dictate their purchases. But it’s really important that consumers know what kind of questions to ask and what kind of information will lead them to make good CBD decisions.
Ask for the Certificate of Analysis (Third party testing)
Some companies are already foreseeing this complexity in CBD consumerism and have started supplying Certificates of Analysis (COAs) for consumers. Not all brands provide this kind of testing, but as a consumer, it’s best to shop with brands that do. On the COA, you can find out:
The CBD concentration as well as the concentration of other cannabinoids such as THC
The presence of industrial contaminants and pesticides and their concentration in the product
The presence of mold or bacteria that may have occurred on the plants themselves during cultivation
This is the most real way to get information about the product you are purchasing. It’s honest, is not concealed in marketing language and tells a consumer just about everything they need to know. If a company does not provide this document, it’s better to move on and find another brand.
Find products made from local hemp or marijuana
If you’re shopping CBD products from a brand, find out where their raw plant material is sourced. Because of limitations in the law, many companies have been sourcing hemp grown in Europe and other parts of the world. However, thanks to the signing of the Farm Bill, many American cultivations and manufacturers have popped up. It’s always better to search for products made from domestically grown hemp.
A company should be completely transparent about where the hemp is grown and how it is processed. At the end of the day, the cultivation process is paramount to the quality and reliability of the final product. If a plant is grown in completely contaminated conditions, it’s likely that the final product will be rife with contaminants.
Certified organic is worth the extra money
The thing is that if a product is certified organic, it means someone has to go out there and inspect the property to ensure that it is, in fact, organic. It’s one of the only ways to ensure some form of regulation in this growing industry. Of course, we expect this to change as the industry becomes more heavily regulated, but until then, choosing certified organic hemp is worth the extra money.
On a side note, hemp and marijuana both have the quality of phytoremediation. It means that they are able to “clean” the soil of contaminants and rejuvenate it. So it’s always best to choose a cannabis product that has been grown organically.
On choosing the right brands
A company should be completely transparent about its CBD products. After all, some people are using this to treat serious physical conditions or are using it as a health supplement. So there should be no secrecy about where the hemp is grown, how CBD is extracted and what other ingredients are in the bottle.
It should not be difficult to find this information. If you are on a brand’s website and you have to click 30 links to find out where the hemp is grown or what ingredients are in the bottle, then it’s not the kind of transparency we’re talking about. If ever you are in doubt, it’s best to contact the brand directly and ask for what you want to know. If they deviate from your question, go on and search again for another brand!
For most people, it’s immediately obvious when a brand “knows what they’re talking about”. If a product is well formulated with careful thought, it is blatantly obvious. A lot of the time, this happens with established brands rather than startups. It doesn’t mean that startups aren’t good, because every brand starts that way. But don’t be afraid to do a little bit of research before you purchase.
Look for a sustainable and safe extraction technique
Every CBD product has been formulated using some kind of extraction technique. This is because you can’t just squeeze the hemp plant and expect CBD oil to come pouring out. So naturally, certain techniques are used to extract CBD from hemp and then make it consumable. There are multiple ways of doing this with some better than others.
Once upon a time, alcohol extraction was the main technique. Simply steeping herbs in alcohol can extract the potent parts of the plant. By the way, many herbalists still use this technique and it’s basically foolproof. But these days, we have more efficient techniques that can yield much better results.
CO2 extraction is the most sophisticated extraction technique available these days. There is virtually no threat of a product that contains contaminants. This is contrary to butane extraction, for example, in which toxic amounts of butane can be found in the final product. So always inquire about which extraction technique is used and do some internet research on that method.
Be patient with the cannabis industry
It’s kind of something that all consumers need to accept: some brands care about what they do and some brands just want to make money quick. It is the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that they are purchasing something worthwhile. And while the industry grows and develops, consumers just have to be patient with the lack of regulations.
It’s not something to get upset about, nor is it a reason to abandon CBD products altogether. It just means taking a little bit more time to do a little bit more research instead of making impulse purchase decisions.
Hopefully, you feel a little bit more ready to face the cannabis market after reading this article. Enjoy shopping for CBD products and don’t forget to use the advice that we’ve given you!