How CBD manufacturers compromise on quality

Jan 31, 2020

small cbd bottle

As I continue to dive into the new and exciting world of CBD, I find more facets of the industry that I want to explore. One of them, for example, being CBD alcoholic free drinks. When looking at the more negative aspects of the product, something that comes up repeatedly is how the lack of regulation and manufacturers rushing to meet demand can cause compromise on dosage and quality within cannabidiol products.

As the market is still in its infancy, companies looking to make a quick buck are able to capitalise on demand, and lack of regulation can allow them to get away with it. After all, in every market we can see people trying to cut corners to make money, and why should CBD be any different? Especially when the high demand is so new, many new consumers are not 100% sure when they are being sold a disingenuous product.

Is CBD underregulated?

In short, yes, it is; and that is not an unpopular opinion by any means. In their recent report, “CND in the UK: Towards a responsible, innovating and high-quality cannabidiol industry” the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) say: “The CBD market in the UK is underregulated, and this poses challenges for the industry and consumers.”

On the topic of CBD scams and poor regulation, The Guardian explained: “Britain is poorly prepared for the wide-ranging changes to cannabis law that are flowering worldwide.” This is a statement I am inclined to agree with. Although CBD has been around for a long time, we are only just now seeing it boom on the public market and it’s starting to look like regulators have fallen asleep at the wheel.

I’ve previously written about CBD regulations in the UK from the angle of criminality and how cannabis laws as a whole have a knock-on effect on CBD products. However, if we look further, we can see that even when CBD products themselves are sold legally, there is no true regulation for what is in each product. 

A company that is working to change this is the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA). Although they do not impose any strict regulations, they guide sellers and liaise with governing bodies like the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) and FSA to continue talks on regulations. At present, it seems that the best litmus test for a reliable CBD product within the UK is to buy from a member of the CTA.

Does poor regulation actually affect the products we see on shelves?

Unfortunately, under regulation has a serious effect on the products we see on high street shelves. For casual consumers of CBD or those who are trying to experiment with the product on their own terms, it can be hard to find reliable products. This is especially true for people buying from high street stores.

This lack of real, market regulation means that oftentimes consumers are finding that the percentages they are being sold on the bottle do not match up to what they actually get. It’s no secret that I believe consumers should be entitled to customisation in every factor of their life, after all that’s why I started Kolibri. However, when products are untrustworthy and the information on them cannot be trusted, people can’t achieve true customisation.

As a part of their report, CMC investigated misleading and disingenuous labelling and their findings are quite staggering:

“The biggest issues related to the accuracy of labelling; the presence of controlled substances and some contaminants; and in one example from a high street pharmacy, the complete absence of any cannabinoids. Highlights:”

·         “Only 11/29 (38%) of the products were within 10% of the advertised CBD content and 11/29 products (38%) actually had less than 50% of the advertised CBD content. One product had 0% CBD.

·         Almost half (45%) of the selected products had measurable levels of THC (mean content 0.04%) or CBN (mean content 0.01%) and are thus technically illegal within the UK.

·         1 sample had ZERO cannabinoid content - this was a High Street pharmacy product (30ml) retailing for £90.

·         1 product had 3.8% ethanol. (3.4% qualifies as an alcoholic beverage)

·         Dichloromethane was detectable in 7 products (3.8-13.1ppm) and cyclohexane was found in one product (27.9ppm). However, these percentages of solvents and heavy metals are still below the permitted daily dose levels in pharmaceutical products, although above food limit safety levels.”

Looking at these findings really does take you aback. Although yes, it can be argued they only tested a small batch (29) of the available products on the market, knowing that only one third were within 10% of the advertised CBD content is staggering. Imagine if these were alcoholic drinks and companies were over-selling and under providing time and time again.

More than that, they found one high-street product (that costs a pretty £90 may I add) didn’t contain any cannabidiols at all. This shows quite clearly how the lack of regulation is causing consumers to be misled and frankly, lied to.

For CBD to really progress into the true mainstream and become a product we stock in our homes, it’s clear that regulations need to not only be implemented but enforced. This way, consumer trust can be built, and more people can try CBD without feeling they are being scammed.

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