We buy pain relievers labeled aspirin and assume aspirin is in the bottle without considering whether one brand of aspirin is better than another. The 2018 Farm Bill has passed through the U.S. House of Representatives, which seeks to remove hemp from the list of Schedule I substances, as well as many other positive provisions; as consumers, can we assume that online orders representing themselves as hemp-based CBD are indeed the CBD that we seek? Consumers often have only the product’s label to reference in dissecting ingredients.
We sought clarity from Marie Antoinette Duncan, president and CEO of Duncan Life Sciences, LLC, a firm offering quality assurance and validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and medical cannabis industries. What should consumers reasonably expect to garner from product labels? Moreover, is there a uniform system of protocols that all labs follow for labeling?
CannaBoomer: Some of our readers may assume that hemp-derived CBD product labels are governed by a state or federal agency. Who governs hemp-based CBD labeling? Are there certain brands we can trust?
Marie Antoinette Duncan: Each state governs hemp-based medicinal CBD products. Every state requires different levels of labeling. Most states require identification and quantification of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. A few states also require a list of additives, test results and even some warnings or disclaimers. You’ll have to check your state’s cannabis laws to determine what exactly is required.
As far as brands you can trust, there are plenty, but they will vary by state. Get to know your state’s cannabis laws to determine what they require for both processors and retailers [dispensaries] and check the labels of your product before purchasing any medicinal CBD products.
What’s in my hemp-based CBD? Why should I care? What information should I be looking for?
CBD derived from industrial hemp should have a THC concentration of no greater than 0.3 percent. Look for this on the label in addition to other cannabinoid quantities. Other items that may be present in your medicinal CBD are terpenes, additives/preservatives, solvents and contaminants.
Why should you care? Because we should all care about what we are putting in[to] our bodies and ensure that those things are helpful and not harmful. Contaminants, as well as some solvents and additives, can be harmful. You don’t want to introduce a new problem while solving another.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a state like Maryland, which doesn’t allow any products to be sold in dispensaries without passing proper testing, you have less to be concerned about. However, if you’re in [a] state that is less stringent, like New Jersey, you need to make sure you are aware of the state laws. The more lenient the requirements, the more questions you need to ask. Ask your dispensaries about who their processors are and how the products are tested before making a purchase. Most importantly, make sure you’re comfortable with the answer.
Are profile tests the same for each state, i.e., do all states include a potency test and tell consumers the difference between full spectrum and hemp-based CBD?
Most of the reputable cannabis testing labs use similar test[ing] methods to determine cannabinoid profiles. However, not all states require full identity and potency testing.
Hemp-based CBD is extracted from Cannabis sativa L. and contains 0.3 percent, or less, THC. Full-spectrum CBD products will contain other cannabinoids, terpenes, waxes and [other cannabinoids] that are naturally found in the plant. CBD isolate has been purified to contain only CBD. Either can be beneficial depending on your needs. However, CBD isolate would not produce the “entourage effect” — what many types of research describe as the presence of multiple cannabinoids working together to achieve maximum medicinal benefit.
How can I know which state has the most restrictive requirements to reflect heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, microbiological and mycotoxins, as well as a mold? Should I purchase CBD products only from certain states?
To find out about your state’s cannabis laws, visit your state government’s website, because state laws are continually changing as more knowledge is gained and medical cannabis grows in popularity.
What makes CBD clean, and how can I find clean companies?
The most common contaminants found in CBD products are heavy metals from the soil in which the plant is grown, pesticides used during the growth process, bacteria from handling during processing and residual solvents used for extraction. First, check what your state requires for testing, then be sure to inquire about this testing at your local dispensary. Reputable dispensary owners should be able to tell you what their products are tested for. If they are unaware, I would recommend purchasing CBD from a place that is confident in the quality of the products they sell.
Can the consumer ever truly know the origin of a CBD product?
If you looked hard enough, you could trace the CBD from the dispensary to the processor, and back to the farm where it was grown. However, there isn’t a need to do this. The purpose of the lab testing is to identify and remove anything introduced during growing, processing or handling that may be harmful. If the product is tested for contaminants by an accredited laboratory, you can feel confident that the product is safe.
Is there a difference between a supplement and food label? Does the FDA regulate CBD in any way, shape or form?
All medicinal cannabis products will need to meet state laws for labeling. There may be different laws in your state for supplements vs. edibles.
The FDA only regulates CBD products that go through the drug approval process under the Code of Federal Regulations. Epidiolex, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, is the only approved plant-based CBD product that is regulated by the FDA. Indirectly, the FDA has the right to identify and take action against companies who are making unfounded claims related to their product’s ability to cure, treat or prevent disease. The FDA has issued many warning letters over the years to CBD manufacturers who have made claims of this nature.
Is there a regulatory body for lab reports, or does this happen on a state-by-state basis?
Regulation happens on a state-by-state basis. However, there is tremendous variability across states when it comes to how labs are monitored and controlled. Ideally, the state will mandate that labs are accredited to ISO/IEC 17025, [which] ensures the lab’s methods and results are consistent and reliable. However, many states do not require labs to be accredited, some don’t specify what testing is required and others oversee the dispensaries but exercise no oversight or control over the labs at all.
What advice would you give to someone looking to purchase CBD online?
Online products are often sold to customers across state lines and therefore are not regulated in any way. Also, there are many people online who are selling fake CBD products or are not getting them tested at all. If you have extenuating circumstances and are not able to visit a dispensary, I recommend only purchasing products from manufacturers who distribute their products to dispensaries. Go to the manufacturer’s website and look up the dispensaries where they sell their products. If their products are on the shelves of a dispensary, they should be complying with the laws in that state, at a minimum, and would more than likely be meeting some level of quality standard. Be wary of anyone exclusively selling medical cannabis products online …
Each state has different requirements for what information goes on the labels for medical cannabis product, how it is packaged, who grows it, who processes it, who tests it and what the products are tested for. Because there is no unified standard across states, you cannot rely upon the state to make these decisions for you. You must own your health.