Don’t buy a CBD product before you read this
The CBD industry is like no other. It’s one of the few times in the US that a historically prohibited product has been legalized to sell on the open market. With legalization, a lot of hype around CBD garnered an explosion of brands and products – often jokingly called the “green rush.” This transition has come with a lot of problems. Because products are still largely unregulated by the FDA and USDA, the industry lacks transparency, testing guidelines, and label standards. Yet, we consider the largest problem facing the industry to be the false claims and misleading advertising from CBD companies.
If you have ever googled “CBD” or seen a “news” article about CBD, you have likely been exposed to one of these false advertisements. In this article, we’re going to break down the unethical and misleading ways CBD companies are marketing their products.
But before we do that, we want to go over the basics of what to look for when buying CBD. It is imperative that CBD consumers be well educated on the product and what they’re buying, because as we’ve already pointed out — not every company is one you can trust.
Here’s what to look for when buying CBD:
- Look for companies who are transparent about where they source their hemp. Organic and domestically sourced hemp is best to ensure quality and purity.
- The THC content should be 0.3% or lower, for it to be federally compliant. This information should be easily available to you.
- Third-party lab results are a must with any CBD brand. This means, the CBD company sends their product to an unbiased lab to test for CBD concentration and for the safety of their product. For example, CBD-company Populum shares lab results on each product page and with every product shipment. If a company is not willing to share third-party lab results or if the lab result is outdated, it is best to avoid the brand altogether.
- Search for reviews of the brand to see how reputable they are. If you can’t find any reviews, that might be a red flag. However, beware of “paid reviews.” When searching for “CBD” in Google many articles appear with titles like “Best CBD Oil.” These are likely paid advertisements from CBD brands. When reading reviews, make sure the website discloses how the reviews were determined. Try to find websites that are unbiased and disclose reviewing procedures.
- Try reaching out to their customer service team to see if you can actually talk to a human. A quality brand stands behind their products. If you have a hard time contacting the company, it might be a red flag.
What CBD Companies are Doing to Sell their Products
The FDA is working to put a stop to companies making false claims by sending out warning letters or even shutting down companies entirely if necessary. However, in an unregulated industry, counterfeit products are still a major issue. Most of the time, they are selling products that are not up to their advertised promise. There are companies that make outrageous claims about their products that are not based in actual scientific research. There are many tricks we’ve seen companies do in order to make a sale. Here’s just a few examples…
CBD Pillows / Blankets / Mattresses
“CBD infused _________.” You fill in the blank. You name it, you can probably find it. The most recent bandwagon product to hit the market are CBD pillows. One brand claims, for just $99, you can get “the world most relaxing pillow”. Even Brookstone has joined in by selling a CBD-oil infused pillow at Bed Bath & Beyond.
While CBD can be used topically, we have serious doubts about the effectiveness of these products. These brands explain the science behind their technology as “microencapsulation,” but it’s quite hard to wrap your head around how this actually works. Here’s why: while the human body does contain cannabinoid receptors that allow for skin to receive the benefits of CBD, it still needs transdermal additives or ingredients to penetrate through the outer layers of the skin. For example, you will often see CBD topical products in the form of a lotion, balm, or rub. The mixed ingredients allow for the CBD to better absorb into the skin.
A particular CBD pillow brand claims to contain an “average of 150mg of CBD in every pillow,” and it states that you’ll experience “micro doses” of CBD all night long. Most in the industry consider ingestible tinctures to be the most effective form of CBD. On average, a CBD-tincture user takes anywhere from 250mg-1000mg per month orally. When you consider how low of a concentration of 150mg is in the pillow example, it’s quite hard to grasp how that small of a dose can effectively be absorbed in the body through a fabric.
Side note, these gimmicky brands often make direct medical claims on their site which is a big no-no in the CBD industry. We’ve found examples such as “CBD has been proven to help relieve chronic pain & trouble sleeping.” It’s important to note that statements such as this have not been approved by the FDA. More importantly, research around CBD is still ongoing and it’s important to be transparent about this with customers.
CBD Coronavirus Claims
Perhaps the most disappointing of the outrageous claims is the claim that CBD can prevent or cure COVID-19 virus. As it stands today, there is absolutely zero evidence suggesting that CBD can treat, cure, or prevent COVID-19. One CBD maker was warned by the New York Attorney General after claiming it could “cure” coronavirus, according to Hemp Industry Daily. A southern California doctor was charged with fraud or selling overpriced “treatment packs” containing CBD, according to the Daily Mail. In March, Forbes reported that thousands of mobile phones were spammed with ads for irresponsible, unsubstantiated products that purportedly could cure or prevent COVID-19.
As sad as these circumstances are, this is not the first time we have seen CBD companies make medical claims. CBD has only been legal to sell in the U.S. for two years, which means research in the field is still evolving. Until the FDA and USDA certify the use of research in CBD advertising, you should avoid purchasing from a brand that references any medical implications.
The FDA has cracked down on companies making these claims. In November 2019, the FDA issued 15 warning letters to CBD companies making medical claims and in April 2020, they issued an additional two letters.
CBD Full-Spectrum Extract Dilution
CBD Full-Spectrum extract dilution is a relatively new (unfortunate) trend we have been seeing in the industry. We’ve discovered through our exposure with a variety of manufacturers and chemists that there are brands who dilute full-spectrum extracts by mixing them with CBD isolates. This is an easy way to boost the concentration of CBD, using a cheaper ingredient, while still being able to claim that the end product as a “full spectrum oil.” As a customer, it’s very difficult to tell whether a product is a pure full-spectrum or if it’s a full-spectrum product that has been diluted.
Let’s say you purchase an expensive high-quality shampoo. Later, you find out that the company has been caught for diluting the shampoo with water. While the company still can list all the product ingredients, you are not getting the high-quality concentration you paid for. Much like this, CBD companies are doing the same to sell their products as higher quality than they actually are.
“This is a new trend we’re seeing in the CBD industry and one that most consumers are unaware of,” said Populum founder, Gunhee Park. “As a company that promotes the efficacy of pure full-spectrum products, it is frustrating to see brands doing this and undercutting prices. You see the third party lab results of brands that show that they have zero traces of other cannabinoids or terpenes, and you know they’re lying to their customers.”
Our best advice is to always ask for a lab test, done by a reputable third party facility. Within the lab result, not only check for CBD concentration, but also check what the makeup of other cannabinoids and terpenes are. If it’s a healthy, pure full-spectrum product, it should be composed of a variety of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CNB, or CBC and also some naturally occurring terpenes.
CBD on Amazon
Amazon is something we use often without question. We tend to trust all the products listed, forgetting just how massive the marketplace is. Yet, unscrupulous vendors have moved into the marketplace, taking advantage of Amazon’s lax oversight. Counterfeit products are sold on Amazon every day because of this lack of oversight. This is particularly glaring when searching for CBD on Amazon. You’ll find products labeled as “hemp oil” that are advertising concentrations of over 100,000-400,000mg. This is quite egregious, considering reputable CBD brands’ highest potencies are typically anywhere from 1,000-2,500mg.
So what’s the truth about buying CBD on Amazon? You truly don’t know what you’re getting. Amazon actually prohibits the sale of CBD on their platform. Every CBD listed on Amazon is either breaking the rules or selling a falsely labeled product. While the 2-day shipping is tempting, it is simply not worth the risk of fraud at your health’s expense.
When purchasing CBD, it is best to buy from a reputable brand. Look for brands who are transparent about their ingredient list, provide third-party test results, and have verified customer reviews.
So what’s the takeaway?
Regulators do their best to be sure companies are unable to make crazy outrageous claims about their products to get a sale. Unfortunately, that does not stop new brands from quickly popping up long enough to claim something untrue about their product to convince people to buy.
The industry is not all bad, however. There are many CBD companies that are working to reverse this trend, and sell honest, ethical CBD. For example, Populum established that transparency as the core value in every aspect of their business. They practice transparency by providing lab results with every shipment that verifies their products are truly full-spectrum. They don’t sell on Amazon and they avoid making any medical claims. Their founder, Gunhee Park, has spoken about why they have chosen to focus on transparency in an unregulated CBD Industry in this video.
Brands like Populum are out there, but it’s on the onus of the consumer to be an informed buyer. Do research before buying. Honesty is the best policy and your CBD brand should always be transparent and upfront with you about the product you are receiving.