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Beginner’s Guide to CBD Project CBD has created a beginner’s guide to address key questions people have when starting CBD and cannabis therapy. Project CBD was established in 2010 by What is CBD? This all-inclusive user guide will give you the lowdown on the suggested benefits and how to get started using it for yourself. CBD has been touted to help with sleep, anxiety, pain, and more, and there are myriad ways to take it. But does CBD work? Is it safe? We’ve got answers.

Beginner’s Guide to CBD

Project CBD has created a beginner’s guide to address key questions people have when starting CBD and cannabis therapy.

Project CBD was established in 2010 by journalists who had been covering the medical marijuana story — the science, the movement and the industry. We felt that the reintroduction of CBD -rich cannabis into the grassroots supply merited special attention. The serendipitous reappearance of whole plant CBD in Northern California in 2009 has given doctors and patients a unique opportunity to evaluate the effects of cannabidiol. Project CBD updates doctors and patients on developments in cannabis science, therapeutics and political economy.

What is CBD?

CBD is a non-intoxicating part of the cannabis plant with enormous healing potential. Although CBD doesn’t make people feel high, it’s causing quite a buzz.

CBD Oil: An Introduction

Medical patients swear by it. Researchers are intrigued by it. Government regulators are flustered by it. And investors are head over heels for it. But what exactly is CBD oil?

10 Tips for Buying CBD

Look for products with clear labels showing the quantity and ratio of CBD and THC per dose, a manufacturing date, and a batch number (for quality control). Select products with quality ingredients that are lab tested and safely extracted.

CBD Dosing

There is no single ratio or strain that’s right for everyone. A person’s sensitivity to THC is a key factor in determining the appropriate ratio and dosage of CBD -rich medicine. You need to find the combination of CBD and THC that works best for you.

Cannabis Versus Hemp

Compared to whole plant CBD -rich cannabis, industrial hemp grown for fiber or seed is typically low in cannabinoid content. If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal and available, look for CBD products made from cannabis.

Best Way to Take CBD

Cannabis and CBD oil can be taken in an astounding number of ways. Finding the ideal method for you may take some experimentation.

Is “Pure” CBD Better?

Scientific studies have established that synthetic, single-molecule CBD has a narrow therapeutic window and requires high doses for efficacy as compared to whole-plant, cannabis-derived CBD .

CBD & THC: Myths and Misconceptions

CBD and THC are the power couple of cannabis therapeutics, interacting to amplify one another’s curative properties. CBD enhances THC ’s painkilling and anticancer properties, while lessening THC ’s psychoactivity.

CBD Drug Interactions: What You Need to Know

CBD is a very safe substance, but it can interact with many common pharmaceuticals. At sufficient dosages, CBD will deactivate cytochrome P450 enzymes, thereby altering how we metabolize painkillers, statins, blood thinners, insulin, and other drugs.

CBD User’s Guide

Many health professionals have little to no experience with cannabis therapeutics and are not able to guide people on this subject. So Project CBD has created a beginner’s guide to cannabidiol & cannabis therapeutics to address key questions of CBD users.

What Is CBD? Beginner’s Guide to CBD

Public opinion about cannabis is changing faster than ever, all thanks to a simple compound known as CBD.

But what is CBD? Why is it so popular?

This comprehensive guide covers all the basics of CBD. We’ll cover how CBD works, how much you should take, and how to get the most out of it.

Whether you’re a regular consumer or brand new to CBD, our guide covers everything you need to know.

This is a really big topic, so let’s get started.

A Primer on CBD & CBD Oil

CBD stands for cannabidiol — a completely non-psychoactive, naturally-occurring compound unique to cannabis plants. It’s become extremely popular in recent years as a natural health booster with little to no side effects typical to common OTC medications.

CBD oil can be extracted from hemp and marijuana. Both plants are the same species of plant but have completely different growth patterns. Hemp produces virtually none of the psychoactive THC molecules common in marijuana.

It’s this key difference that allows CBD oils made from hemp plants for sale legally, while CBD oils made from marijuana remain a restricted substance.

CBD works primarily by interacting with the endocannabinoid system — an important network in the body that relies on naturally produced cannabinoids (such as anandamide and 2-AG)to maintain the balance between various organ systems.

Essentially, the endocannabinoid system keeps the body in balance through a process called homeostasis.

Ever since CBD was introduced to mainstream media, the cannabis industry has entered the age of renaissance.

The Origins of CBD Oil

Cannabis is one of the earliest agricultural crops, with first records of use dating back 10,000 years.

Since then, people have used cannabis for food, textiles, and medicine for centuries.

Traditionally, hemp fibers were used to make ropes and fabrics. Seeds served mainly nutrition, and the flowers and resin were used for medical purposes.

Cannabis was a highly regarded medicine among some of the greatest civilizations of the past — from China to Egypt.

As humans began to discover that different species of cannabis have different purposes, they started cultivating both forms of the plant — hemp and marijuana.

Hemp plants are usually tall, thin, and fluffy. Marijuana plants are more like bushes with their short and bulky structure. Marijuana also produces more resin than hemp, which is where most of the active medical constituents of the plant are stored.

The first records of hemp oil come from 2737 BC when the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung used it topically for rashes and irritated skin. He also used cannabis tea for conditions like gout and indigestion.

Queen Victoria’s doctor, J.R. Reynolds prescribed her a strain of marijuana high in CBD to help manage menstrual cramps.

At the beginning of the 20th century, particularly throughout North America, marijuana plants were bred to contain high concentrations of THC for stronger psychoactive effects and greater medical activity.

Traditional cannabis culture fell into shambles during the 1930s at the start of the marijuana prohibition.

Following the War on Drugs in the 1980s, President Reagan’s administration invested millions of dollars into research intending to back the government’s claims about the negative impact of marijuana on the brain and cognitive function.

Not only did those studies not help them meet their goals, but they also resulted in the initial discovery of the endocannabinoid system in humans.

Today, scientists are preparing to expand research on CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids to understand how they work, what their limitations are, and how they can benefit society as medicine, textiles, and various other industries.

Today, there’s a lot of money in the cannabis industry.

The CBD market’s worth in the United States is estimated to hit $4.3 billion by 2026.

What Does CBD Oil Look Like?

CBD oil is a thick viscous oil that can range from clear to dark-green in color.

It’s a herbal extract designed for sublingual (under the tongue) consumption, or by swallowing the liquid.

Carrier oil such as hemp seed oil or MCT oil is an essential ingredient in CBD oil to make it easier to use. CBD in its natural form is a white powdered crystal that brings incredible potency even with small doses. By diluting the CBD and other active ingredients in an oil it becomes much easier to measure the ideal doses.

The carrier oil choice affects the appearance of the oil, with vegetable oils like olive oil having a darker color than more refined carrier oils like MCT or fractionated coconut oils.

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How is CBD Oil Used?

CBD oil is very easy to use.

All you have to do is squeeze the dropper of your bottle, measure out your dose of CBD, and place the liquid under your tongue for 30-60 seconds before swallowing.

It’s THAT simple.

Alternatively, you can add the oil to your juice, tea, or any other drink.

The most complicated part is determining how much oil to measure for your dose. This can vary from one person to the next and will depend on the potency of the oil.

Most people find a 10 or 20 mg dose of CBD oil to be ideal — which works out to around 10 or 15 drops of a standard 1000 mg CBD oil.

How to Distinguish High-Quality from Poor-Quality CBD Oil

There’s a large degree of difference when it comes to the quality of CBD oil.

A decent CBD oil should have a strong hemp flavor and can range from clear to dark green in color. The viscosity of the oil increases along with the potency of CBD.

No CBD oil should have foul smells, black colors, or chunks of plant matter. If you find anything like this, return the product to the manufacturer and find another brand.

CBD Extraction: How CBD Oil is Made

CBD extraction is very similar to other plant extractions.

The majority of CBD oils are extracted from hemp plants instead of marijuana. If you remember what we discussed above, hemp plants contain little to no THC, while marijuana can range from low to very high concentrations of this psychoactive compound.

Only CBD oils made from hemp are considered legal across the United States. Only 11 states allow oils to be made from marijuana plants without a medical license.

There are two common methods for CBD extraction:

1. Alcohol Extraction

Any fat-soluble substance also dissolves in alcohol. This means that you can efficiently extract CBD and cannabis terpenes from the plant using an alcohol such as ethanol or methanol. This is one of the oldest extraction methods still used today.

2. Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Most reputable companies use CO2 to extract their hemp. It’s considered the “gold standard”.

CO2 extraction involves passing the gas through several temperature-controlled chambers under high pressure to cause CBD to enter a supercritical state. While in this phase, CO2 has both the qualities of gas and liquid. It also gains extremely efficient solvent properties that pull the active chemicals from the plant material.

This first extract contains all the phytochemicals in the hemp plant. We refer to this as a full-spectrum extract.

Some companies do an extra extraction step to further isolate the CBD from the rest of the hemp-derived chemicals.

The Difference Between CBD from Hemp and Marijuana

CBD is CBD no matter the source, but CBD oil made from hemp is different from the one sourced from marijuana. Here we explain these differences, highlighting the chemical profile of both types of CBD oil.

Hemp-derived CBD

Hemp plants are cultivated specifically for their higher CBD content and low levels of THC (usually around 0.3% or below). Since CBD is non-intoxicating, hemp-derived CBD oil allows you to benefit from the CBD without experiencing its psychoactive side effects.

Marijuana-derived CBD

Marijuana is any Cannabis sativa plant that contains more than the federal limit of 0.3% THC in dried weight.

In most countries, marijuana is still a controlled substance. The possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana can get you charged with a criminal offense.

Currently, CBD oil from marijuana is legal in 11 US states for recreational use and in 33 states for medical use.

CBD Oil Dosage Instructions: How Much CBD Should I Take?

If you want raw numbers and dosage ranges for specific cases, you won’t find them here.

That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all CBD dosage.

CBD affects everyone differently.

The key to figuring out your effective CBD dose is to calculate the potency of your CBD oil first.

CBD oil usually comes with a dropper. One full dropper equals 1 mL of oil, which is about 30 drops.

So, for example, if you have a 500 mg CBD oil in a 30 mL (1 oz) bottle, there will be about 16.6 mg of CBD in each mL of the liquid.

An ounce (30 mL) of a 1000 mg bottle will have approximately 33.3 mg of CBD in 1 mL.

This is the basic method for calculating your starting dose. It’s recommended that you start with a very low dose and build up gradually over time.

Start with 2 mg and add 2 mg to your dose each time until you find a level that suits your health goals.

For some people the ideal dose will remain at 2 mg, while others need much larger doses of around 50 mg to get the effects they’re looking for — everybody is different.

Why Does CBD Work Differently for Everyone?

The dosage of CBD will vary from person to person. That’s because several factors affect the way CBD interacts with your body, including:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Biochemistry
  • Underlying health conditions

Any of these factors and their combinations can increase or decrease your sensitivity to CBD and other hemp derivatives.

Full-spectrum CBD Oil vs. Isolate: Which One is Better?

When browsing through different CBD products online, you may notice that some of them are labeled as “CBD isolate” or “THC-free” while others are listed as “full-spectrum CBD.”

Let’s take a look at the main differences between these two forms of cannabidiol.

1. Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

To put it simply, full-spectrum CBD refers to a product that contains all the naturally-produced chemicals in the hemp plants. This includes, but is not limited to CBD as well as other cannabinoids like CBC, CBG, CBN, and a long list of terpenes and related chemicals.

There are over 400 compounds in hemp and marijuana, including cannabinoids (with traces of THC below 0.3%), terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, and trace minerals.

Many experts agree that full-spectrum CBD oil is more effective than isolate, which scientists link to a phenomenon known as “the entourage effect.”

The concept of the entourage effect — or whole-plant synergy — is based on the theory that cannabinoids, terpenes, and other molecules from the plant can enhance each other’s effects. That’s why lower doses of full-spectrum extracts remain efficacy where isolates fail to deliver desired effects.

2. CBD Isolate Oil

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like — pure CBD that has been isolated from other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds.

While isolates are generally weaker than the same dose in a full-spectrum product, there are some advantages to this extract type.

Here are 4 reasons why you may consider buying CBD isolate:

  1. Isolates offer a higher dose of CBD per serving
  2. CBD isolates contain 0% THC
  3. You can precisely control the potency of CBD in isolates
  4. Isolate is taste- and odor-free; you can add it to food and drinks and use the benefits of CBD without the unpleasant taste of natural CBD oil.

Where to Buy CBD Oil

CBD oil is widely available throughout the United States thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. There are three places where you can buy CBD products:

1. Buy CBD Oil Online

The majority of CBD products are sold online, which is how we recommend searching for CBD oil.

Buying online is safe, easy, and convenient. Once you’ve made up your mind and chosen your products, they will be shipped to your doors within 1-3 business days on average. You can enter loyalty programs, use seasonal deals, or buy in bulk to save money on your supplies.

Not to mention that it’s easier to research your potential CBD oil vendor so that you can decide whether you can trust them or not.

2. Buy CBD Oil from Dispensaries

If you prefer buying CBD oil locally, you can try to get your products locally. CBD is sold in dispensaries in many different forms.

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Dispensaries allow users to buy CBD oil in person, where you can choose between products from hemp and marijuana. However, if your state doesn’t allow the recreational use of cannabis, you’re going to need a medical marijuana card or a doctor’s recommendation to buy CBD oil with a higher THC content.

3. Head Shops

You can find many hemp-derived CBD products in local head shops or wellness stores. Similar to dispensaries, these types of stores supply people not only with CBD oil but also with a wide range of hemp accessories.

Unfortunately, head shops aren’t regulated, so the owner of the store can actually sell anything they consider “good quality”, even if it’s far from that.

As a result, there are many head shops selling untested CBD oil just to lure unaware customers and earn quick money on their lack of knowledge.

Key Takeaways on CBD Oil

CBD oil has many well-documented health benefits. It helps regulate the vital functions of your body, brings a sense of balance to your mind, and improves regeneration. When incorporated into an active lifestyle and healthy diet, it can have a dramatically positive impact on your health.

It’s no wonder so many people take CBD oil today. After all, cannabis has a long record of historical use, tracing back several millennia before the common era.

Nevertheless, please note that CBD is not a panacea. It’s not even an officially approved drug. The FDA has classified hemp-derived CBD as a health supplement, so if you suffer from a medical condition or are taking prescription drugs, discuss your plans with your doctor before you decide to buy CBD oil. CBD may have a negative interaction with certain medications.

Let us know in the comment section below how CBD oil has helped you — let’s raise awareness about this cannabinoid and how it can help people feel better!

CBD: A User’s Guide

CBD is seemingly everywhere and in everything, from CBD-infused creams to CBD-infused oils, tinctures, gummies, juices, and lollipops. But does it work, and is it safe? We’ve got your questions covered.

I n case you haven’t heard, CBD is a cure for whatever ails you, from insomnia and inflammation to pandemic angst. Or at least that’s what retailers, supermarkets, mini-marts, beauty stores, and coffee and smoothie shops across America would have you believe. There are CBD-infused creams. CBD-infused oils. CBD-infused tinctures, gummies, juices, lollipops, lattes, nutritional supplements, and even a CBD oil–infused pillow! What’s next, CBD-infused tampons? (Actually, that already exists. Really.)

According to the Brightfield Group, a market research firm, CBD sales were estimated to exceed $4 billion at the end of 2021, and by 2025, the industry’s total market value could reach a whopping $16 billion.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

But does CBD work?

That’s a question worthy of a Talmudic scholar, because the CBD world is complicated.

Some believe that it may have an important role to play in certain health outcomes.

Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, has been studying the health benefits of cannabis and CBD since the early 1960s. Long considered the grandfather of cannabis research, Dr. Mechoulam and his team developed a process for synthesizing certain acids found in the cannabis plant. These acids — otherwise known as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and a methylated version of CBDA (CBDA-ME) — have been since studied for a variety of purposes, and might ultimately be used to develop new drugs for everything from arthritis and anxiety to inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

Others believe CBD is unproven and risky.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to investigate its potential harms, noting that while it recognizes the potential opportunity that cannabis-derived compounds (like CBD) can offer, it remains concerned about CBD products being marketed as supplements. (According to the FDA, THC and CBD products do not fit the definition of a dietary supplement.)

“FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk,” the Agency wrote in its 2021 update, noting that it’s illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.

Among a number of problems with CBD, the FDA says, is that it can cause liver damage and diarrhea, it may impact the metabolism of other drugs, and it may cause male reproductive toxicity in humans, as has been found in animal studies.

Still, many consumers continue to believe CBD’s potential benefits. A report (PDF), also from the Brightfield Group, that analyzed 2,400 members of an online community of medical cannabis users found that 59 percent of CBD users say they use it for insomnia and 66 percent for anxiety, while 44 percent have taken it for depression and 49 percent for joint pain and inflammation.

With so much CBD noise out there, we’re feeling a little overwhelmed and confused about CBD. We want to know the real deal. For starters, is CBD the same as cannabis? Should we spend our hard-earned money on the stuff, or is it a scam? Is there any science to back up the claims that CBD is helping people sleep better, feel better, look better, or be an all-around better human? If so, is that in the form of CBD oil, tinctures, lotions, or should we vape it? But wait — isn’t vaping bad for you?

Relax. We’ve got you covered. Herewith, the real scoop on CBD. (Buyer beware: Abbreviations ensue.)

Common Questions & Answers

Endocannabinoids are molecules produced by the body to maintain homeostasis — stability — in response to changes in the environment. The endocannabinoid system interacts with all of the major systems and organs in the body to enable and restore optimal functioning.

The word “cannabinoid” usually refers to a chemical found in the cannabis (marijuana or hemp) plant. “Endo,” in this context, refers to substances produced inside the body. Endocannabinoids are, in effect, the body’s own source of cannabis-like substances.

CBD and THC are plant cannabinoids, which operate much as endocannabinoids do, by attaching to certain receptors on the outsides of cells and altering the behavior of those cells or the bodily systems they are a part of.

Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids can affect pain perception, memory, mood, appetite, and many other bodily systems. The endocannabinoid system regulates the release of other neurotransmitters — that’s how it maintains homeostasis — and helps the body heal from any damage it sustains. Plant cannabinoids can similarly enhance feelings of well-being, but they can have undesirable side effects as well, particularly in young people.

Research suggests that endocannabinoids can be boosted by certain foods, such as those containing essential fatty acids, chocolate, herbs, spices, and teas, as well as by stress-reducing activities.

CBD: The Good, the Bad, and the Confusing

Before we get too much into the, er, weeds, it’s important to understand what CBD is and where it comes from.

Cannabis refers to a group of three varieties of marijuana plants with psychoactive properties: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Cannabis contains more than 400 compounds, known as cannabinoids (pronounced keh-NAB-eh-noyd). The most well-known and researched are cannabidiol (CBD), and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC). Other lesser known components — THCA, CBN, CBC, and CBG — play different roles and have different effects in the body. (See our CBD glossary for details.)

The component in cannabis that is linked to its intoxicating effects (in other words, the “high,”) is THC. Conversely, CBD won’t get you high. Depending on your goals, this is either a good or a bad thing.

“Hemp” (which incidentally, is considered part of the CBD family) refers to non-intoxicating varieties that are high fiber or high seed-yielding and often used for rope, clothing, or sails. (Cocktail party fact: “The word ‘canvas’ comes from ‘cannabis,’ as it was made from cannabis fiber varietals,” says Will Kleidon, the CEO of Ojai Energetics in Ojai, California..)

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In the United States, the legal definition of hemp is any cannabis plant whose delta-9 THC is below 0.3 percent.

What’s the Endocannabinoid System and How Does It Work?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system first described in the 1990s, and it plays a big role in brain, endocrine, and immune function. Its main role, however, is to maintain homeostasis, the internal biological balancing mechanism of the brain and body.

Two main elements of the system are endocannabinoid receptors, classified as CB1 and CB2. The body makes its own cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, that can act upon these receptors. But other varieties of cannabinoids, such as CBD, can interact with them, too.

What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are laced throughout the body, brain, and nerves.

  • Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) Receptors Most of these are in the central nervous system, especially neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.
  • Cannabinoid 2 (CB2) Receptors These are located mainly on immune cells but are also found in the central nervous system.

Both receptor types are activated by cannabinoids, which can be generated naturally inside the body (known as endocannabinoids) or can be introduced through a form of cannabis.

What’s the ‘Entourage Effect’?

The entourage effect refers to a theory that the whole is more effective than each part — or that the various compounds of the cannabis plant work best synergistically.

“It’s the theory that the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and fatty acids all work together like an orchestra, in which all the instruments complement each other so you get the maximum effect of the plant,” says the cannabis researcher Monica Taing, PharmD. “CBD by itself can be a pain reliever, and THC can be a pain reliever by itself, but when combined, they work better for pain relief. That’s the entourage or ensemble effect.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

What Are the Legal Implications of Using CBD?

The legality of CBD is confusing.

In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka that year’s Farm Bill), legalized CBD derived from hemp — with the important caveat that it could only contain 0.3 percent of THC by dry weight, to be grown legally. This type of CBD is legal in 47 U.S. states with some restrictions, but totally illegal in Idaho, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Plants with more than 0.3 percent of THC are considered marijuana, which is legal for recreational use in 19 states, Washington, DC, and Guam.

Despite state laws legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational or medicinal use, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (PDF) still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug: “substances or chemicals [that] are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” So, while marijuana is illegal on a federal level, states have different laws regarding marijuana and CBD.

Only one cannabis-derived drug product has been FDA approved: cannabidiol sold under the brand name Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of high-dose CBD to treat a rare, hard-to-treat form of epilepsy in children ages 1 and up.

How Do I Find Safe CBD Products? How Do I Know What I’m Getting?

Short answer: You often don’t.

The situation is not unlike that of dietary supplements, except for in the case of supplements, the FDA has defined a very clear set of restrictions — and the Federal Trade Commission, strict reinforcement of health claims. While the FDA has sent warning letters to certain companies selling CBD products, many products slip under the radar. In addition, state and Federal CBD regulations are at odds, so oversight can be difficult. What’s more, every state where medical or recreational marijuana is legal has its own testing rules and regulations, so something that passes muster in Massachusetts might not in California.

People often buy their products online or at the local drugstore or gas station, meaning that they often don’t know what they’re getting.

“Some CBD products don’t contain CBD, but they contain THC and heavy metals, so we need strong regulations,” says Dr. Taing. Indeed, as of May 21, 2022, poison control centers have managed 2,652 cases related to CBD, per the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Some people have failed drug tests because they’ve unwittingly taken THC that was in a product that was supposed to contain only CBD. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November 2017 found that 21 percent of CBD products derived from hemp and sold online contained THC, even though THC wasn’t listed on the packaging.

A more recent study in JAMA Psychiatry showed that even a high-quality, high-potency cannabidiol product labeled as carrying as much as tenfold less than the legal limits of THC permissible under law might still result in positive urine drug tests.

Findings from another study, published June 2022 in the Journal of Cannabis Research, showed that of the 80 products evaluated, 37 contained CBD concentrations that were at least 10 percent higher or lower than the concentration listed on the label: 12 products contained less than 90 of what was listed, while 25 products contained more than 110 percent.

Even more worrisome, a study published in January 2019 in Forensic Science International examined nine liquids that were advertised as 100 percent natural CBD extract and found they contained potentially problematic compounds. One contained dextromethorphan, which is used in over-the-counter cough medication and is considered addictive when abused. Four others had a synthetic cannabinoid that can cause, among other things, anxiety, psychosis, and even death.

“As with any other product you would ingest, you have to be smart,” says Jahan Marcu, PhD, the editor in chief of the American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine, and the cofounder and chief science officer at the International Research Center on Cannabis and Mental Health.

What’s more, he says, every product should have a certificate of analysis, or COA — a document generated by a laboratory certifying its legitimacy and also listing the ingredients.

The Mayo Clinic uses the following checklist to identify high-quality products, as described in a 2019 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings:

  1. Does it meet the following quality standards? These include Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) certification from the FDA; European Union (EU), Australian (AUS), or Canadian (CFIA) organic certification; National Science Foundation (NSF) International certification.
  2. Does the company have an independent adverse event reporting program?
  3. Is the product certified organic or eco-farmed?
  4. Have their products been laboratory tested by batch to confirm tetrahydrocannabinol levels below 0.3 percent and no pesticides or heavy metals?

For more information, Project CBD, Certified Kind, Clean Green, and WeedMaps offer information on dispensaries, cannabis products, and brands.

Does It Matter if the CBD Is Organic?

In theory, yes, because without an organic label, there’s a potential for ingesting pesticides and chemical fertilizers. If you have a COA, then you’ll know what’s in the product.

But here’s the rub: Organic products are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is a federal agency. Since cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 drug, technically, medical cannabis couldn’t be designated as “organic,” unless it’s made from hemp.

In May 2018, Palmetto Grow became the first company to have USDA Organic certification for hemp flower and seed. Since then, other organic growers have joined the market. You can find a list of some of the best organic CBD products from EcoWatch and The Honest Consumer.

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