Is Quality Control in Cannabis Happening?

Matt Weeks February 7, 2020 0 comments

Quality control is critical when patient health is involved.

Demand for CBD products has hit a fever pitch. The latest big name company to get in on the action is Dollar General, which plans to pilot a new line of CBD products throughout Tennessee and Kentucky. But as the market saturates with new and inexpensive CBD brands, it’s more important than ever for consumers to educate themselves on issues of quality control in cannabis.

Until the FDA decides to create rules for CBD, consumers are at the mercy of a self-regulating industry, and that means some suspicious snake oil will undoubtedly slither onto market shelves.

Buying the best quality CBD doesn’t always mean buying a more expensive item, but there is reason to double-check and triple-check products whose prices seem a little too good.

This is true for any industry, but especially CBD. Recent research published in the journal Molecules (2018), found that the CBD and THC content of several brands of CBD differed significantly from what is on the label.

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quality control in cannabis represented by healthy plant

Buying Expensive: Why it’s Often Worth it

Nobody wants to pay too much for CBD. Hemp is a hearty plant that can grow almost anywhere. It reaches maturity quickly, and produces a good amount of CBD in every plant. It’s also seemingly everywhere.

So why are CBD products so expensive?

One reason is third-party testing. Companies that want to build consumer confidence often turn to independent labs to test their goods and ensure the product functions exactly as described.

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Third-party testing is the gold standard of quality control in cannabis. Its also the single most important and easiest way to choose a CBD product. However, it’s also rather pricey. The tests themselves cost money, but so does the process of waiting for approval. Every moment that a CBD company isn’t shipping out new products, it’s losing money.

This adds to the final cost of the product. In exchange for financing the waiting period, consumers get the peace of mind that comes of benefiting from the best quality control in cannabis. Lab tests ensure no pesticides or heavy metals remain in the product, and that the dosage of CBD is accurate.

Independent lab testing can not only tell consumers how much CBD is in the product, but what other materials are contained as well. This can include helpful terpenes, harmful metals, or other materials, like THC.

Smart shoppers don’t just look for a third-party testing seal, they read the test results themselves. Some cannabis stores even carry a certificate of analysis (called “COA” in the business) that is essentially a printout of the third-party test results.

If a brand doesn’t have a COA that’s easy to find, skip it and move on.

How to Benefit from Quality Control in Cannabis 

Selecting the right CBD oil is about more than looking at lab printouts and price tags. The best way to benefit from the small amount of quality control in cannabis is to know what you want.

Before buying a CBD product, ask yourself what you want to get from it. Just like different strains of cannabis have different functions and benefits, not all CBD products are created equally.

People who want instant relief from pain or anxiety may want to inhale CBD through a vaporizer, or buy an oil to hold under their tongue. Those who want longer-lasting effects (maybe to aid sleeping problems) could opt for edibles.

People who want spot pain relief can try topical creams, while those who want to a restorative and relaxing session may opt for CBD bath bombs.

Importantly, it’s a good idea to check if the CBD product you’re considering has any THC in it. By law, CBD-only products must be made from industrial hemp. They cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. However, in states where recreational cannabis is legal, some oils marketed as CBD products actually contain more THC. These are usually coded “CBD-Rich” or “High in CBD.”

THC has a host of benefits, but if it’s not what you want as a consumer, stay away. It’s also best to check your workplace’s policy on cannabis. Some places, such as military branches, are stringent about no THC — and some CBD products are specially formulated to remove the 0.3 percent that normally occurs. Some use full-spectrum CBD, which includes other cannabinoids that can bring additional benefits.

researcher doing quality control on lab cannabis

What the Future Holds

The most important part of selecting the right CBD is to take full advantage of the measures in place to ensure quality control in cannabis products.

The U.S. cannabis market is projected to be worth more than $66 billion by 2025, making it one of the fastest-growing health sectors in the market today. It’s understandable that companies will try to reach consumers at all income levels through a variety of products.

Until the FDA regulates CBD, consumers must rely on themselves to determine the validity of product claims. Quality control in cannabis products rests solely on the buyer. Don’t expect every company to fork over extra money for third-party testing. Many are simply trying to rush their product to market and recoup their investments.

This doesn’t mean those products are inherently inferior; only that you don’t know what’s in them. The results could lead to failing a drug test, causing seizures, or making you waste money.

So stay smart, read product labels closely, know why you’re taking CBD, and enjoy the freedom to use cannabis medicine. It’s been a hard-won fight.

Works Cited

Pavlovic, Radmila et al. (2018). Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 23,5 1230. 20 May. doi:10.3390/molecules23051230

Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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