America is hungry for CBD. Consumers are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this pot compound—which has medical benefits but won’t get you high—and the market is expected to soon surpass a billion dollars.
But not all CBD is created equal. That CBD-infused chocolate bar you just bought from your local health food store? It might not have any CBD in it at all.
That’s because most CBD is sold without any government regulations or oversight, allowing dishonest companies to hawk snake oil instead of true medicine, according to Martin Lee, a journalist and founder of the advocacy group Project CBD.
“This situation is untenable and… there’s a lot of improving that needs to happen,” Lee told me. “The government has been lying so long about cannabis and now the hemp companies are lying about it in a different way.”
There’s ample evidence to back up Lee’s claims. When researchers bought 84 CBD products online and tested their contents, they found that less than a third of the products contained the same amount of CBD that their labels stated, according to a research letter published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Over 40 percent of the products had less CBD than advertised and 26 percent had more CBD than what their labels stated. One in five of the products had enough THC to cause a possible failed drug test for pot use.
The FDA, which does not regulate any CBD products currently for sale but polices how companies market unapproved drugs, has found similar results when investigating CBD products. The FDA warns consumers that they should “beware purchasing and using such products.”
“FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed to contain,” the FDA’s website says.
So there’s a lot of bullshit CBD out there. But where’s the good stuff?
The best option is to buy your CBD products from a legal weed store. Unlike the CBD you find on Amazon or in health food stores, the CBD sold in legal pot shops is closely regulated. Pot companies working in state-legal markets like Washington have to test every batch of their CBD products and accurately label those results.
You can also find good CBD products outside of pot shops—but that will take some legwork on your part. Legitimate CBD companies test their own products even though there’s no government regulation requiring them to do so. You should always ask a CBD company for the test results. If they don’t cough up those results, you should avoid their products.
Otherwise, your next 1,000-milligram CBD-infused bath bomb might have a whole lot of nothing in it.