The 2018 Farm Bill heralded a new era for the U.S cannabis industry, especially for hemp-derived CBD which was de-categorized as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. Legally, such CBD should contain a limit of 0.3% THC to be considered an acceptable hemp product in the eyes of the law.
Consequently, this development has led to the blossoming of a dynamic CBD market space. Diverse brands selling various hemp products across all forms (gummies, oils, flower…) and extracts (isolate, broad spectrum and full spectrum) have emerged to fulfill latent consumer demand. However, there is still one problem… The CBD market is not actively regulated by the FDA. That is, there are no formal regulations being actively enforced on the production, testing and labeling of CBD products. In 2017, a PennMedicine study found that over 70% of products in the CBD market are mislabeled. This means that customers are faced with the prospect of buying products that misrepresent their content. As such, this issue poses peculiar challenges for an industry still trying to define itself toward wider acceptance.
Many CBD brands have sought for different ways to solve the problem. The current and popular standard is to ensure that all products sold under a brand’s name or website/platform come equipped with lab test reports which detail product composition. As an extra layer of assurance, there is an emphasis on the lab reports emanating from 3rd party sources. This is a very important point that reinforces the veracity of whatever lab tests that are presented with products. Having an independent laboratory conduct the tests, adds credibility to the exercise for all involved. Nevertheless, some brands have taken it upon themselves to go further.
Chow420, a CBD brand and eCommerce platform, which also provides CBD retail solutions, developed a system that verifies the authenticity of lab test reports against databases of laboratories. The system utilizes a sequence of protocols to safely register lab test reports on a blockchain network where they are preserved for future reference. The CEO, David Obasiolu, was intentional in explaining that the decision to opt with blockchain was based on the desire to take advantage of blockchain DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) in ensuring the indefinite immutability of all entered records. To see more of this novel solution, you can read more here.
TAKEAWAY: Though brands can take several approaches to content verification and safety standards, lab results are almost always a part of it.
So how can you tell that you are taking the best quality CBD ? Good CBD does not hide. You look for it in the details.
“WHY THE FUSS ?”: WHAT IS IN THE LAB TEST REPORTS
The purpose of the lab results is to detail composition. The most salient aspects are:
- CBD and other cannabinoid content
- THC content
- Terpenes and Flavonoids
- Preservatives and other artificial additives
- Heavy Metals
- Harmful Content: Chemicals and Microbials
- Organic Solvents (Residuals)
CBD content: A major issue that was raised in the 2017 PennMedicine study was the misrepresentation of CBD content. Increased awareness of the benefits of CBD has led to an explosion in demand. It comes as no surprise that some producers would want to overstate the amount of CBD in a product in order to increase its appeal. Toward solving this problem, lab tests are one way of ascertaining the actual amount of CBD actually available in a product.
Other Cannabinoids: Ongoing research has also highlighted a myriad of benefits to be gained from other cannabinoids. These include CBN, CBG, CBL, CBNA, Delta-8 THC among others. Lab results detail the amount and proportion of these compounds relative to the total.
THC Content: Though it is also a cannabinoid, Delta-9 THC deserves separate coverage. This is the compound known for its ability to generate the euphoric high that is widely associated with cannabis consumption. THC content is also important for its legal implications. Legally, hemp-derived CBD cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. In some instances, brands can try to pass off products that do not meet this requirement. This can be potentially harmful for customers and vendors alike, in more ways than one.
Terpenes and Flavonoids: Informed CBD enthusiasts are well aware of the function of terpenes. These compounds constitute a crucial component in CBD products because they interact positively with cannabinoids to produce what is termed the “entourage effect” by scientists. In the entourage effect, terpenes work complementarily with cannabinoids to produce a lasting and robust experience that is holistically more enriching than the effect of any single constituent compound working alone. Terpenes and flavonoids are natural compounds and contribute to the aroma and flavoring of hemp plants. Various terpenes have distinct properties and uses. Hence, it is important to understand which of them are included in a product.
Preservatives and Artificial Additives: Preservatives like Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate can sometimes be found in CBD products. As a cardinal rule, you do not want to consume products with a significant amount of preservatives. You want to maximize on actual content and minimize on filler materials. Lab results detail the proportions of such compounds in the product that you are consuming. Beyond a certain threshold, artificial additive content can render a product sub optimal for consumption. Without lab results, such assessments are impossible to make.
Heavy Metals: Hemp is a prolific bio-accumulator. This means that it is able to take advantage of existing elements in the soil to aid its growth and development. However, there is no filtration system for this capability. Consequently, hemp can also absorb heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury. These elements can be very deadly at high levels of composition. Lab results test for such elements and indicate when the product is contaminated.
Harmful Content (Chemicals): Chemicals are used in the cultivation of hemp. Residual amounts of these chemicals, such as pesticides, can pose a danger to humans. An example of these chemicals is Daminozide which is very common in greenhouse cannabis cultivation. Chemicals are not suitable for human consumption. It is important to keep tabs on the content of such material within a product.
Harmful Content (Microbials): Bio-contaminants as fungi, bacteria and mycotoxins can infect the hemp plant. Any products from such infected plant material can pose a risk to human health. Lab results verify the extent of these toxins in a hemp plant. Beyond a negligible amount, these toxins can render a hemp product unfit for human use.
Organic Solvents (Residual): Organic solvents used in CBD extraction include propane, ethanol and isobutene. These days, solvent extraction is being displaced by more advanced methods like those involving the use of Supercritical Carbon dioxide. The use of Supercritical Carbon dioxide can also involve the use of a co-solvent in its extraction process. Hence, there is usually a need to identify the exact solvents used in the extraction of CBD used in a product.
Solvent tests serve this very useful need by helping to identify what solvents were used in CBD extraction and any residuals, if any.
In summary, quality CBD that is safe for you can be identified by looking at the lab results.
Testing for CBD components can be done through various methods. It is helpful to understand what these are.
- High-Performance Liquid Chromatography: The standard method used by most independent laboratories. The sample is extracted, cleaned and dissolved in a solvent. Afterward it is injected into a reversed phase C18 column. As it flows through the column the different components are separated based on hydrophobicity.
The compounds exit the column and have their quantities calculated. With this method the exact quantities of each component in a CBD product can be tabulated.
- Mass Spectrometry: This method is used to identify pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, residual solvents, cannabinoids and terpenes. Essentially a complete composition profile of a product.
- Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR Testing): This is useful in testing for bio-contaminants. DNA strands in CBD products are compared against the DNA code references of bacteria and fungus. If the DNA of bio-contaminants are present, it is also possible to measure the extent of such material and as a result, the extent of the contamination.
CHOOSING A LAB WITH CONFIDENCE
Selecting a lab for your product requires some degree of judgment. Transparency is one of the most important factors in this process. Many labs have publicly available databases that allow for third party scrutiny of tested products. You want a lab that has publicly available records of products and detailed analyses of methods used. You have to ensure that the technologies used are one of the above listed in the “testing methods” area and that the laboratory has no previous record of malpractice. Brands like Chow420 allow you to showcase your products with the lab results on hand for easy view by buyers. It is important to ensure that you do not sully your efforts by listing with brands that do not place an emphasis on lab result verification. Chow420 takes a look at the database of the testing laboratories to ensure that every listed product on the site is outfitted with genuine results. When you onboard, you are joining a platform that places a premium on transparency and traceability in the CBD industry.
OVERVIEW OF A CBD PRODUCT LAB TEST REPORT ON CHOW420