America's CBD boom: Are you getting what you pay for?

Posted Feb 19, 2019 by Karen Graham
The sale of products containing CBD or cannabidiol is booming across the country, with the food and beverage market seeing some of the biggest growth. While CBD is believed to be safe, some of the industry's claims may be crossing the line.
Stores have sprouted up across France selling products containing cannabidiol  or CBD  a compound us...
Stores have sprouted up across France selling products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound used for medical marijuana treatments
Although CBD, short for cannabidiol, comes from the cannabis plant, it does not get you high. As long as it’s derived from hemp, it’s legal to buy over the counter. Consumers can find a multitude of products containing the compound, from skin creams to bath oils, and baked goods to beverages.
Market research firm Brightfield Group found the CBD market grew 89 percent over the last year, and it is expected to surge even higher now that U.S. farmers are allowed to grow hemp. Brightfield Group's Bethany Gomez says, "We expect the CBD market to hit $22 billion by 2022, which will exceed the marijuana market."
The bud of a Cannabis sativa flower coated with trichomes bearing cannabidiol and other cannabinoids...
The bud of a Cannabis sativa flower coated with trichomes bearing cannabidiol and other cannabinoids.
Psychonaught via Wikimedia
But is CBD really legal?
To be perfectly clear - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated three ingredients from hemp plants - hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil — as safe and won’t require additional approvals, as long as marketers do not make claims that they treat disease.
In December 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated his agency's stance that CBD is a drug ingredient and therefore illegal to add to food or health products without approval from his agency.
So while it is still illegal to add CBD to food and beverages or to make any claims on its curative powers, the industry has continued to move forward, despite any real research to back up questionable claims that it can treat a wide variety of health issues, ranging from everyday ailments to chronic medical conditions.
“Nobody’s been allowed to do the research for all these years, so it’s a big open space where companies can say things without the data to back it up,” says Kent Hutchison, co-director of the University of Colorado’s CU Change Lab, reports Bloomberg.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil
Zatural (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Regulatory problems abound
Perhaps more worrisome - There is no regulatory control on the amount of CBD found in any product. To find out if people were getting what they pay for, NBC CT Investigates, and NBC stations in Miami and New York blind-tested three brands of CBD oil and four brands of candy gummies that were purchased over the counter in stores and online.
NBC used Evio Labs, an accredited agricultural testing provider. Chris Martinez, the president, and co-founder said his laboratory has tested CBD products for more than 400 companies.
The testing showed that some products did not match what was on the labels, meaning that over half the samples contained less CBD than advertised. “They were significantly lower – sometimes three times less than what was stated on the label,” Martinez said of the results.
The lab rejected samples from two brands of CBD oils for not meeting California standards for quality control. The lab flagged one sample labeled as a Lazarus Naturals product, for containing high levels of lead according to FDA standards. “It had four times the amount of lead than is approved. If a child gets their hands on these products, it could be life-threatening,” Martinez said.
Half full cannabis tincture dropper next to a marijuana bud surrounded by oil in the shape of heart.
Half full cannabis tincture dropper next to a marijuana bud surrounded by oil in the shape of heart.
Sherpa SEO (CC BY 3.0)
Another sample purchased from CBDistillery contained an amount of a pesticide that exceeds California’s acceptable standards. A company spokesman said they had the batch in question tested by a third-party lab and it passed that laboratory standard.
As for eating CBD gummies, of the brands tested, only one, Green Roads, contained the amount of CBD as stated on the label. One brand had no CBD at all. These gummies came from a surgery recovery website called, “Dani’s Doll House,” and were marketed as the “strongest” CBD gummies. “All five of those samples had zero CBD in them,” Martinez said.
Be careful if you decide to try a CBD product
With CBD products unregulated, there’s no guarantee that any given product contains a safe or effective level of CBD. And you run the possibility of the product having a pesticide or other unwanted ingredient included.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are incorrectly labeled, and could cause serious harm to consumers.