CBD Market: Why Testing and Labeling Are So Important


Congress changed the way Americans view cannabis when they approved the 2018 Farm Bill, effectively distinguishing between hemp and marijuana from a legal standpoint. Since the landmark legislation was implemented, the U.S.  CBD market has exploded. But its success has not been without a few bumps in the road. Two such bumps relate to testing and labeling.

Federal law requires hemp and CBD products to undergo certain tests. So do the states. The tests are designed to ensure product quality as well as compliance with federal and state laws. But the testing issue is a bit fuzzy. Testing rules are just ambiguous enough to open the door to unnecessary problems.

In terms of product labels, the law is even less stringent. This makes for unhappy consumers who want to know what it is they are actually using. In retrospect, federal and state regulators have dropped the ball on both testing and labeling. Both are critically important to the future of the CBD market.

Testing for Cannabinoids

CBD products sold on the retail market obviously have to be tested for safety. In order to satisfy federal law, they also must be tested for THC volume. A legal CBD product can contain no more than 0.3% THC. Here is the problem: federal law does not require testing for other cannabinoids because only Delta-9 THC is addressed in federal statutes.

This means a CBD processor could add Delta-8 THC to a retail product without having to disclose doing so. Since the product is never tested for Delta-8, no one need know. This could be a problem. Why? Because Delta-8 does offer some intoxicating effects. There are legitimate CBD users who are not interested in being exposed to that particular cannabinoid.

Testing for Chemicals

A secondary testing issue relates to chemicals utilized by processors during extraction. For example, Houston’s Cedar Stone Industry explains that ethanol hemp extraction is one of the most common extraction methods in the industry. Insufficient testing may not reveal trace amounts of ethanol remaining in processed material. Again, this could be problematic for consumers purposely trying to avoid ethanol exposure.

Lax testing standards only make the labeling issue worse. If processors are not subjecting their products to a thorough battery of tests, can their labels contain enough information to satisfy concerns over trace chemicals?

Consumer advocacy groups say that buyers should have every opportunity to acknowledge the use of ethanol hemp extraction by looking at a product’s label. They maintain that CBD product labels should be every bit as detailed as the labels on food products.

Labels and Cannabinoid Regulation

The other side of the labeling coin is its potential impact on cannabinoid regulation. Right now, Delta-9 THC is the big cannabinoid that Washington and the states are trying to control. But there is a concerted effort among some states to limit Delta-8 THC as well. One thought is to ban it altogether. Another is to allow Delta-8 but force manufacturers to disclose it on product labels.

Whether the issue is Delta-8 THC, ethanol hemp extraction, or just a desire to fully understand all the ingredients in a CBD product, consumers cannot get all the information they want as long as the current rules regarding testing and labeling remain intact. The rules have to be modified if manufacturers are to be forced to provide more information.

Testing and labeling are as important to the CBD industry as any other industry involving personal care, beauty, and health products. Testing confirms product ingredients; proper labeling passes that information on to consumers. Why would manufacturers not want to do better with both?

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