The phytocannabinoid, CBD, short for cannabidiol, is popularly consumed for its therapeutic qualities, non-psychoactive/euphoric effects, and ease of accessibility. There are two aspects to CBD regulation since CBD can be sourced two ways, from cannabis plant or hemp. CBD derived from cannabis is regulated by the State and same as THC and other cannabis products, CBD derived from hemp is federally regulated under the 2018 Farm Bill. Cannabis, THC, and any derivatives or components of cannabis are classified as a Schedule I substance in the Controlled Substances Act and are federally illegal. The Farm Bill, which includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 removed hemp and its derivatives or components from Schedule I classification on December 20th, 2018. The passing of the bill resulted in the increase of hemp production, consumption, and accessibility. However, hemp-derived CBD products and other hemp products in general lack the regulatory framework implemented for cannabis based products. The 2018 Hemp Farming Act requires products to be tested for potency only, making sure it contains no more than 0.3% THC. Otherwise, hemp CBD products are not being screened for the same contaminants as cannabis CBD products. Hemp-derived CBD is not required to undergo the same level of testing as CBD in cannabis products. This is only based on the separate classification of cannabis, which is a Schedule I substance containing THC, and hemp, which was descheduled. Although both cannabis and hemp produce CBD, one is more regulated than the other, therefore causing more inconsistency in CBD products. Hemp has also been determined as an “inefficient source of CBD” since the production and extraction of CBD requires large amounts of hemp.
Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hemp testing is for THC potency and should be tested within 15 days of harvest to prevent increased THC concentration from oxidation and decarboxylation from surrounding heat. USDA testing guidelines don’t include mandatory screening for pesticides and heavy metals, despite hemp being a bioaccumulator or phytoremediator. Both hemp and cannabis are considered as bioaccumulators, meaning that they absorb contaminants like toxins and heavy metals from the soil. This fact brought on heavy metal testing requirements for cannabis products. But the lack of testing regulation for hemp-derived products threatens the ability to standardize quality in cannabis, hemp, and CBD products overall. Hence why all consumable CBD products should be fully tested.
According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, hemp CBD cannot be present in food products and dietary supplements. Hemp CBD products cannot be marketed with labels claiming to “prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat, or cure serious diseases,” and are not approved to be used as medications. If a hemp brand is advertising as such, they are in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The FDCA has set four general standards for labeling products, the following must be on the product packaging: indicating what kind of product it is, stating the net weight, listing all ingredients, and the name and address of the source (producer, and distributor or packager). Cannabis-derived CBD products follow additional labeling and marketing compliance protocols that are part of the specific State’s cannabis program. This includes child-resistant packaging, percentage of cannabinoid content, harvesting/manufacturing and packaging date, and more. Please see the “Packaging Regulations” article to learn more on compliant cannabis labeling and packaging.
CBD products that are not governed under cannabis programs are either hemp-derived or illicitly produced. This discrepancy brings on the risk of mislabeled CBD products. The University of Pennsylvania conducted research in 2017 on 84 CBD extract products purchased online. The journal focused on the CBD products’ label claims and analyzed its actual cannabinoid concentration and contents. 69.04% of the online CBD products were mislabeled, 30.95% were accurately labeled. CBD vape liquid was most frequently mislabeled (87.50%). 26% of the products contained less CBD than labeled. And THC was detected in 18 of the 84 samples tested.
CannaSafe’s most recent vape report found that the hemp-CBD vape cartridge purchased from the internet failed for numerous reasons. The product contained over 60% in additives like cutting agents and flavorings and did not yield the amount of CBD the label claimed. There was only 0.42% of CBD detected while the packaging stated 10%. 8.640 ppm of lead was found as well which is 17x over the permissible amount set by the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California.
Ultimately, CBD products derived from cannabis have undergone full panel testing while hemp-derived CBD products are not tested beyond cannabinoid potency. Cannabinoid potency testing for hemp only entails the THC content and not for other cannabinoids. Hemp CBD has yet to be treated with the same level of scrutiny as cannabis CBD. Consuming CBD should not be a risk as it is today, therefore regulations need to evolve for the sake of its consumers. CBD safety will be improved with better regulatory developments, one of which being more testing requirements.