Do you know what you’re getting when you buy CBD vape cartridges, CBD oil and other hemp products? Of course you do, because you can just read the label – right?
Actually, things aren’t that simple. Unlike most of the products that you can put into your body, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as it does food and drugs. The FDA steps in when supplements are adulterated or misbranded, but when it comes to labeling accuracy, the government isn’t looking out for you. The hemp industry, in fact, has no central authority testing products and ensuring that the labels are accurate.
Chances are, though, that false CBD labeling isn’t a serious problem – right? CBD companies know what they’re putting into their products, so you’d think that inaccurate labeling in the CBD industry would be extremely rare. The truth is, however, that most CBD companies don’t manufacture their own products and have almost no idea what’s in them.
So, how big is the problem? In 2019, Leafly tested 47 different CBD oils, vape cartridges, gummies and other products for their cannabinoid content. The tests revealed that 23 percent of those products were short on their advertised CBD content by more than 20 percent. In addition, some of the products tested contained no CBD at all. That’s a serious problem for consumers because you could potentially buy one of those mislabeled products and decide that CBD doesn’t work for you when, in fact, the product contains no CBD.
CBD is expensive. If you’re going to try CBD products, nothing is more important than getting what you pay for.
This is your primer to CBD labeling. You’re about to learn why CBD product labels can sometimes be inaccurate and what you can do about it.
Why Does the CBD Industry Have So Many Labeling Problems?
Although it’s entirely possible that there are a few dishonest CBD entrepreneurs who are only looking to make a quick buck in an unregulated industry, the fact is that most CBD brands aren’t entirely sure what’s in their products because they aren’t the ones making those products. Inaccurate CBD labeling is largely the result of hemp industry novices who aren’t exercising proper diligence.
Most companies in the CBD industry get their products in one of two ways.
- They buy finished goods from hemp processing companies. There are several very large companies in the United States and elsewhere that buy massive supplies of industrial hemp. They extract the hemp on-site and make it into finished products that are ready to sell. CBD brands can buy CBD oil, e-liquid, gummies and more from hemp processors, and since the hemp processing companies deal in huge volume, their prices are usually very reasonable.
- While domestic hemp processing companies do charge reasonable prices for finished CBD goods, there’s a way to get hemp distillate, CBD isolate and finished CBD products even more cheaply: Import them from China. China grows over 70 percentof the world’s hemp supply, and there are several Chinese exporters shipping hemp-derived goods worldwide at rock-bottom prices.
For CBD brands that want to cash in on a booming industry and aren’t necessarily concerned about long-term sustainability, it makes perfect sense to import materials or finished goods from China. The problem, though, is that the Chinese exporters have no accountability. What are you going to do if you buy a canister of “CBD isolate” from Alibaba, and the product turns out to be cornstarch? It is notoriously difficult to sue companies based in China, which basically means that Chinese exporters can sell you whatever they want.
Whether a CBD brand gets its materials or products domestically or abroad, there’s no way for the brand to truly know what’s in its products unless those products are sent to a third-party lab for testing. To this day, there are still many CBD brands that don’t bother to test their products at all – and without lab testing, inaccurate CBD content is only one of the potential problems that may go undetected.
What Are the Potential Contaminants in CBD Oil?
When you buy CBD oil from a fly-by-night seller, inaccurate labeling is only one of the problems you may encounter. You don’t only need to worry about whether a CBD product actually has the amount of CBD specified on the label – you also need to worry about whether the product is even safe to use. When you extract the essential oils from a plant, you’re not just extracting the plant’s beneficial compounds; you’re also concentrating any undesirable contaminants. These are just a few of the potential contaminants that a CBD product may contain.
- Hemp is a powerful soil remediator that can draw heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and cadmium out of the ground in which it is grown. There could, in fact, be some connection between the volume of hemp grown in China and the fact that the nation’s soil has a serious problem with heavy metal contamination.
- It’s important to only use CBD products made from hemp grown according to organic practices. Otherwise, those products could contain trace industrial pesticides and fertilizers.
- Hemp biomass needs to go through a process of curing and moisture removal before it’s ready for extraction. If it’s cured in an environment that’s less than ideal, mold can grow. Mold contamination can make an entire harvest worthless, so some growers may “cheat” by applying fungicides. Mold and fungicides are two contaminations you definitely don’t want to ingest.
- The most effective way to extract CBD from hemp is with a solvent such as ethanol. If a hemp processor uses a solvent in the extraction process, though, the processor also needs to have a foolproof method for removing the solvent from the hemp extract. Ethanol, butane and hexane are all common CBD contaminants.
- Vitamin E acetate has been added to some hemp-based vaping products by unscrupulous sellers because it has the same color and viscosity as hemp distillate. Adding Vitamin E, therefore, is a way to use less hemp distillate in a vaping product without users knowing the difference. There is a potential link between Vitamin E acetate and a serious vaping-related lung illness, so it’s very important for CBD brands to be diligent about testing their vaping products for that contaminant.
Transparency and Third-Party Lab Testing Are the Most Important Features of Any CBD Product
Before you buy any CBD product, you need to know as much as possible about the product itself and the hemp from which it is made.
For maximum safety, you should buy CBD products from brands that use USA-grown organic hemp. That gives you the best possible chance of avoiding a product with potential heavy metal, pesticide, fungicide and fertilizer contaminations.
What’s even more important, though, is buying only from brands that send their products to third-party labs for testing and publish the results. The only way to be certain that a CBD product contains the amount of CBD claimed on the label – and that the product contains no unwanted contaminants – is to have it analyzed by an outside laboratory. If a CBD brand doesn’t have test results available for you to view, don’t buy its products.