Not All CBD is Created Equal

Looking to find quality CBD products? Check the labels and ask for a Certificate of Analysis from a third-party testing facility.

What to look for when sourcing your CBD.

CBD is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. It has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to its potential medicinal benefits in addition to its lack of psychoactive properties. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD derived from hemp, there are no regulations that ensure all CBD goes through the same process when it comes to cultivation, processing, extraction, etc. This means there is less accountability when it comes to producing CBD products and therefore not all products are created equally. 

To ensure your CBD products are what the label says they are and what you need as a consumer, it’s important the brand or store provides or at least has access to  information like where the product came from, how it was made, the potency, and the lab results. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what information you should be looking for. 

Quality of CBD

You can find a CBD product in just about any store you go into nowadays, from gas stations and grocery stores to dispensaries. A simple google search for CBD will bring up countless advertisements for products. The main difference between them all starts where the CBD is sourced from. 

Depending on where you buy your CBD product from, it is derived from either hemp or cannabis. CBD derived from cannabis can only be found from a dispensary or caregiver in a state that has legalized cannabis. All other CBD products  you see must be derived from hemp. A reputable brand will be able to tell you where and how the plant used to make it was grown. Some go as far as to share the seed information and growing practices. 

If you are buying a product like a cream or edible rather than pure flower or another type of inhalable CBD, the company should also be able to explain some of their processes. For example, you should be able to find out their processing, extraction, & separating practices. If they are using a solvent, you want to check if there was a residual solvent screen too. All of this information should be available on the box or label, website, or can be requested from the provider. 

Understanding Potency

Another piece of information that should be available is the amount of CBD in the product you are buying. There is no official serving size for a CBD product, so it’s important to ensure you are buying the correct potency for your needs. When buying products made with CBD such as creams, salves, and edibles, you can usually find this information on the box or label displayed in milligrams (mg). If you are purchasing CBD flower, concentrate or any other type of product meant to be inhaled, the potency information will likely be found on the Certificate of Analysis and will usually be listed in weight-based percentages rather than milligrams.

There are also a couple of other terms you may see on product labels, such as isolate, broad spectrum or full spectrum. While these terms are technically anecdotal, they are widely used so it’s important to know what they reference. 

Full Spectrum CBD – A product with this label will include CBD in addition to all of the other compounds found in the plant. These compounds can include other cannabinoids like THC*, terpenes, and many others that may contribute to the entourage effect

Broad Spectrum CBD – Similar to full spectrum in that it contains other compounds like terpenes, but usually the THC has been removed. 

CBD Isolate –  The purest form of CBD, all other compounds have been removed.

*Note: All federally legal CBD products must have less than 0.3% THC.

Third-Party Testing

The last important piece of information you should look for is the Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party testing lab. While the label, website, and/or packaging should tell you the correct information regarding the product you are buying, you can always double check with the COA. This information can be found in a few different places. Sometimes it’s included in the packaging, directly on the website or a QR code that brings you to test results. Other times you may need to simply ask the provider. 

The COA is arguably the most important thing to look for because it validates the potency information that we previously went over. It’s easy enough to make a label that says 500mg, but the lab results prove it. For example, NBC Boston conducted a study with our lab and found many CBD products on the shelves were not accurately labeled. They either had much more or less CBD than advertised. 

A COA can also tell you which safety screens your product was tested for. There are different regulations for safety screens depending on the state you live in. They usually include screens for heavy metals, microbiological contaminants, pesticides, and residual solvents.  

In addition to making sure you check the information discussed above, it’s important to stay as up-to-date as possible on regulations. Until the cannabis plant is legalized on a federal level, , regulations will continue to vary from state to state. If you ever come across a CBD product that you want to check out for potency or safety, you can always reach out to us with questions or to submit a sample for testing.

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