Mislabeling in CBD Industry

As CBD Industry Grows, Mislabeling Issues Remain Major Concern

With billions of dollars in annual sales, not getting what you paid for remains far too high a risk in the CBD market.

Zack Ruskin March 10, 2022

The story of cannabidiol’s (CBD’s) remarkable rise is one largely told in figures and projections. In the United States alone, CBD sales tallied $4.6 billion in 2020 – while estimates for 2022 suggest that number could climb as high as $8 billion by year’s end.

With so much prospective growth and profit to ostensibly be had, it’s no surprise that there is now a surplus of choice when it comes to the CBD products available in various U.S. markets.

However, alongside these undeniably eye-popping figures come the challenges of regulating a newly formed, rapidly evolving industry.

Hemp-Derived or Marijuana-Derived?

Following the success of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp has once more become legal to cultivate and grow across the U.S. Unlike the weed we buy in dispensaries, hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa species that produces a very minimal amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Under current federal law, the legal THC threshold for hemp plants is set at 0.3 percent. This means any plant being cultivated as hemp cannot exceed that potency. By contrast, if you walk into a licensed cannabis dispensary, you’ll likely find products featuring generous helpings of both CBD and THC.

How is that possible?

Essentially, the continued federal prohibition of non-hemp cannabis means that there are really two, concurrent CBD markets in existence today: one offering hemp-derived CBD products and another selling marijuana-derived CBD. Many consumers might not realize this distinction, but for a variety of reasons, it’s important to appreciate what sets these two markets apart.

Mislabeling of Hemp Products

For one, there are some scientific circles that believe that CBD is at its most effective when paired with other cannabinoids, including THC, and terpenes from its source strain. Dubbed “the entourage effect,” it’s an ongoing discussion but one worth considering when attempting to determine which CBD option may offer the most benefit. Another critical point of departure concerns the ways in which hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD are regulated and tested.

Given all CBD products that contain over 0.3 percent THC can only be sold in state-legal adult-use markets, they are subject to the same extremely high safety and testing standards that all cannabis products must go through. Though this is costly (and can be felt in the price tag when compared with hemp-derived alternatives), the upshot is that any CBD item you buy from a licensed dispensary or delivery service has been properly tested and accurately labeled.

Things are, unfortunately, not quite so simple when it comes to the CBD products now jockeying for space at grocery stores and gas stations.

When It Comes to CBD, You Don’t Always Get What’s ADvertised

Part of the reason for this is that hemp-derived CBD exists in somewhat of a limbo. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, it is no longer an illegal substance under federal law. However, the FDA continues to serve as the guiding authority on the regulation of these products, and they haven’t always had an easy time staying ahead of what’s become a veritable deluge of CBD scams and fakers.

Back in 2017, a study from Penn Medicine found that nearly 70 percent of the CBD being sold online at the time was mislabeled. Purchasing and analyzing 84 products from over 30 companies, they determined that “more than 42 percent of products were under-labeled […] and another 26 percent of products purchased were over-labeled.” The following year, Congress would approve the Farm Bill, but issues of mislabeling have continued to persist.

Earlier this year, a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy bought and tested 39 CBD products from retail stores across the southwest portion of the state. After analyzing them all in a laboratory, they concluded that the “majority of CBD product labels are inaccurate, containing either too much CBD, too little, or none at all.”

On top of that, there were also products that boasted of being “THC free” but in fact still contained a notable quantity of the psychoactive compound. Not only do such products run afoul of federal law, but they also set unassuming CBD consumers up for what might be a most unwanted experience.

A lack of industry-wide standardization has only added to the confusion. Today, you can walk into a health store and find a sea of similar-looking products, all dosed with drastically different quantities of CBD, and all vying for your attention.  And now we have Delta-8 THC as well. Marketed as a potential hemp-derived alternative to “classic” Delta-9 THC, science is still struggling to understand what this popular new compound is all about it.

It all adds up to one thing: being proactive and informed on which brands are doing things right is imperative for any CBD fans who opt not to go through dispensaries. Fortunately, CBDNerds is here to help with tons of info on the subject and all the latest news.

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Potential Changes Coming to the CBD INdustry

One recent positive development is the Hemp Advancement Act, which was introduced to Congress in February by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

If successful, the bill would increase the legal THC threshold for hemp products up to 1 percent, as calculated on a dry weight basis. Additionally, the Hemp Advancement Act would also remedy issues arising from the fact that hemp’s THC threshold can temporarily rise during the extraction process. Furthermore, it seeks to undo a much-decried ban prohibiting those with past drug convictions from participating in the market.

With potential ramifications for Delta-8 THC products as well, what comes of this bill will be of great interest to the CBD industry and its legions of consumers.

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin is a freelance reporter living in San Francisco. His bylines include Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Leafly, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Billboard, Cannabis Now, and California Leaf.