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A CBD Case Study: Surprising test results from 12 ‘legal’ hemp CBD products


Learn the truth about CBD products

The hottest word of the year, this year, has to be ‘CBD’. It’s short for cannabidiol, one of the non-psychoactive elements  that is available in both cannabis and hemp plants.  From coast to coast in the United States and all over the world, conversations are buzzing about CBD products. New CBD brands, making bold claims, are popping up everywhere due to the lack of regulatory oversight by government agencies. 

We found products in local strip mall shops, grocery stores and through online retailers like Amazon. We wanted to determine if these off the shelf grocery store CBD products were truthful about the claims they make about their products so we teamed up with Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs in San Diego, California to get right down to the truth.

We found some interesting things and in this article we will share a ton of knowledge with you including:

  • Hemp based CBD vs cannabis CBD

  • Government statement on hemp based CBD sales in California

  • How to access CBD legally in California

  • Testing analyses of 12 off the shelf hemp CBD products

Let’s dive in and get started learning the truth about CBD products.


Hemp based vs cannabis.


First, it’s important to understand the difference between the different types of ‘CBD’ oils, specifically what is a CBD oil and what is not. 

Hemp Seed Oil: Hemp seed oil is just that, oil made from hemp seeds. Think of it like grape seed oil or a similar cooking oil in your kitchen. What is important to know about hemp seed oil is that is contains only trace levels of CBD, so extracted oils from hemp seed oil or products made with hemp seed oil will contain extremely small amounts of CBD, almost none. 

(Be wary of products claiming to be ‘CBD’ products but are actually made with hemp seed oil and contain almost no CBD)

Hemp CBD Oil: CBD oil made from industrial hemp plant matter does contain CBD in quantities large enough to extract high potency CBD oils. This type of CBD is equally as valuable as CBD from the female cannabis plant, only it contains very low, trace levels of THC, almost none. Without the THC, the CBD oils made from the hemp plant are generally considered to contain no THC if it is below the federal threshold of .3% THC. 

(Although hemp CBD products do contain valuable CBD, they are generally considered ineffective at treating most ailments because THC is needed as the molecular pathway for CBD to interact with our bodies)

Cannabis CBD oil: CBD oil made from female cannabis strains, contains CBD in moderate quantities and also contains THC and many other cannabinoids and cannabis specific flavor and aroma profiles. 

(CBD from female cannabis is the most desired because it is paired with THC and other cannabis specific elements that provide a chemical pathway for CBD to interact with and protect our bodies)


What does the government say?

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently issued a four page document with legal guidance on the sale of hemp based CBD products in California. The document states that hemp based CBD products meant for human or animal consumption may not be sold in stores in California. Only hemp seed oils may be sold and used in products meant for human or animal consumption. Remember from the previous section that hemp seed oil contains almost no CBD so this can be misleading. Below is an excerpt from the CDPH document.


When this document came out in the spring of 2018, this struck fear in California hemp CBD retailers, but not enough fear to make them stop selling their products against the ruling of the California Department of Public Health. This is where the legality of hemp based CBD gets tricky. Recently, people have said that ‘hemp is the new weed’ because it is now in a regulatory ‘grey area’ much like cannabis has been in California since the inception of prop 215 in 1996, up until prop 64 was implemented in 2018. Now that cannabis is so heavily regulated and taxed, it is no longer the cash grab it has been for the last 20 years.

Risqué entrepreneurs are instead turning to hemp based CBD to pad their wallets, because hemp based CBD sellers feel that due to the lack of enforcement and grey legality of hemp CBD, they can sell their products worldwide, online and without fear of enforcement until the CDPH or the FDA actually steps in and starts enforcing licensing and testing standards.

That’s right, hemp based CBD products are not held accountable to any testing standards, which is why we conducted this study. We wanted to investigate many of these hemp based CBD products that you find on the shelves of grocery stores and gas stations to find out if they meet the same potency and safety standards as the California cannabis industry. 


How to access CBD legally in California

According to the CDPH, the only way to access CBD legally in California is by purchasing it from a licensed cannabis dispensary where CBD products are sourced exclusively from female cannabis plants. Female cannabis is closely regulated by both the Bureau of Cannabis Control and the CDPH, so CBD products sold in licensed cannabis dispensaries are held to regulatory testing and safety standards. Hemp based products are not regulated by the California cannabis industry and are therefore not allowed to be sold through dispensaries in California as they are not held to regulatory standards.

So, any CBD products you see in grocery stores or gas stations are not legally allowed to be sold in California, but small retailers are doing it anyway because there is no fear of enforcement. Often times, they will make whatever claims necessary to make the sale of their ‘cure-all’ CBD products. 

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between types of CBD and the regulatory landscape of CBD products in California, let’s dive in and take a look at 12 of these off the shelf CBD products we tested at Infinite Chemical Analyses Lab in San Diego, California.   


(Generic photo of hemp CBD products, not the actual products examined in this study)


We tested 12 hemp based CBD products of varying types including a CBD preroll, tincture, edible, topical, bath bomb and capsules. We took the products to Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs where they conducted a full California state screening for THC potency, CBD potency, pesticides and heavy metals – the same testing standards cannabis products in California are held to. 

Wanna know what the results were? Drumroll…


The results


Testing conducted by Infinite Chemical Analysis Lab / San Diego, California

You can see in the table of results above that many of the CBD products purchased had huge variances in the claimed CBD potency.

Some products we tested that claimed to be hemp CBD derived actually contained THC at levels greater than .3% THC (the federal threshold where it is considered hemp based CBD) which is alarming. Something important to note is that even if a product is made from hemp CBD, it will still show up on a drug test for THC, even if THC is only present in trace levels. Several products failed for pesticide contamination. Other products contained absolutely no CBD at all!

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