At the time of this report, the FDA has only approved one prescription drug product containing CBD (cannabidiol), known as Epidiolex, which is used to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. The remaining overwhelming majority of CBD products are not approved by the FDA, although they are still subject to the same laws and requirements as FDA-regulated products that contain any other substance. The 2018 Farm Bill decriminalized hemp, allowing for hemp-derived CBD to be sold en masse. Due to the fact that the FDA has not approved other CBD products, citing limited available information about its effects on the body, especially when it comes to usage outside of medical supervision, CBD companies are tasked both with being compliant with general FDA regulations and asserting themselves as trustworthy providers of CBD.
Recently, the FDA sent a batch of warning letters to three companies that sell CBD products due to their advertising providing misleading claims about the medicinal benefits of the compound. Unfortunately, while CBD is believed to offer a plethora of health benefits, there is a limited amount of scientific research and evidence to support such claims. As such, it is currently illegal for CBD products to, in the words of the FDA, "advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims." One company was warned due to its promise that CBD is "clinically proven to treat cancer," among other diseases. The unsubstantiated claims not only landed the companies in trouble, but served as a warning to other companies as they work to advertise and market their products in a compliant way.
As such, it is currently illegal for CBD products to, in the words of the FDA, "advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims."
Due to the evolving legal landscape and pertinent need for CBD-specific research to be conducted, buying a high-quality CBD oil isn't as black and white as experts hope the future holds for the rapidly growing industry. Currently, the vast majority of reputable CBD companies are working to establish themselves as trustworthy brands by enlisting third-parties to test their products.
One major thing to look out for is the COA, or Certificate of Analysis. This informative report discloses the quality of the CBD source, as well as includes the batch number of the product (which can then be explored more thoroughly online). It also includes what additional chemicals or compounds may be found in the hemp that was utilized to extract the CBD oil, especially noting how the source plant itself soaks up everything found in the soil in which it is cultivated. If a COA is MIA, it may be best to avoid making a purchase.
In addition to third-party companies testing the quality and quantity of the CBD in advertised and available products, they are also testing to ensure the product doesn't include harmful or toxic chemicals. Depending on the extraction method a company uses to manufacture CBD oil, harmful residual solvents could be leftover such as acetone, ethanol , or butane . This is why it is important for CBD brands to enlist third-party companies to run multiple tests on their product.
Pesticide testing is utilized to verify that Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) do not exceed EPA limits. Microbiological and mycotoxin testing is also utilized to confirm that no harmful bacteria is present. Potency testing is also important because this allows for brands to be transparent about the cannabinoids found in a product, as well as to confirm the lawfulness of the product when it comes to THC amounts.
As reported by Leafly, two chemicals commonly appear in lab tests for particular CBD tinctures: dextromethorphan (DXM) and 5F-ADB. Both of these chemicals are potentially lethal depending on the dosage. DXM is a popular cough syrup with a history of recreational abuse, while 5F-ADB has a similar composition to the synthetic drug K2 (also known as Spice).
It is important to read the label to determine if the product has a ratio or trace amount of THC , which is the active psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant. The wording on the label to look out for is "whole-plant" (which is synonymous with "full-spectrum") or "CBD isolate" (which is synonymous with "Pure CBD"). This will help provide insight into what type of CBD extract is found in the product.
Unfortunately, it is more profitable to dilute CBD with non-natural chemicals, further stressing the importance of looking closer into CBD companies before you purchase and consume their products. The FDA is doing what it can, including sending out warning letters to companies that they tested where they found inconsistencies in the level of CBD that the products claimed to contain. However, due to the current landscape of FDA approvals, it is up to the consumer to look out for any potential dangers, which is why looking at the testing a product went through prior to being stocked is crucial. From understanding the cannabis laws in your state to conducting research to commit to a CBD product, shopping for CBD can be a daunting task where research truly is your friend.