Marijuana Goods Sold Online Aren't What You Think, Say Scientists

Product testing revealed some unexpected results.

Modern marijuana enthusiasts have the luxury of being able to buy cannabidiol (CBD) products in many forms, most of which are easy to purchase on the internet. But unfortunately, a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association published Tuesday warns that the odds the products actually contain the advertised quantity of CBD are actually extremely low.

Because its legal status is more relaxed than its more notorious cannabinoid cousin, THC, companies that make CBD products enjoy a very open marketplace that allows them to sell the extract in oil, tincture, or vape liquid form. The compounds are similar, but their differences make them a little like Liam Hemsworth and Chris Hemsworth — both great, but one is clearly more glamorous than the other. However, that might be part of the reason for CBD’s popularity. As the Liam Hemsworth of cannabinoids, CBD might not get you high like THC, but it’s also shown promise in helping people deal with pain and offering symptom relief for cancer patients.

However, it can’t really help if consumers don’t know how much CBD — and what amounts of other, unexpected substances — are actually in the products they buy online, the researchers behind the JAMA paper point out.

CBD products come in many forms, most of which are easy to purchase on the internet. But odds are, the product you buy doesn't contain the advertised quantity.

Flickr / Vaping360

In their study, the scientists, led by Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, analyzed 84 CBD products sold online to see whether they actually contained the amount of CBD they advertised.

They found that only 26 of the tested products — just 31 percent — contained within 10 percent of the amount of CBD indicated on the label. Furthermore, 43 percent of the commercially available products the scientists tested contained more than 10 percent less CBD than advertised, and 26 percent contained more than 10 percent more CBD than advertised.

Moreover, THC — which none of the products were supposed to contain — was present in 18 of the 84 products. For a product that has people excited about its health benefits, it’s worrying that such a high percentage of CBD products are not being manufactured or labeled in a way that inspires consumer confidence.

CBD oil is sold in lots of forms, including vape liquid.

Flickr / Vaping360

“Discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws have resulted in inadequate regulation and oversight, leading to inaccurate labeling of some products,” write the study’s authors. Currently, 29 states in the U.S. allow cannabis products in some form, whether recreational or medical, but under federal law, THC, CBD, and any other marijuana product are illegal, with no accepted medical use.

Marijuana’s legal status in the majority of U.S. states means that marijuana product manufacturers have a lot more leeway to market professional-looking products and sell them on the internet, but the patchwork laws across the country mean these sellers are working in a marketplace that does not require them to standardize their products.

Another problem with CBD, besides its legal status, is that there is no accepted dosage. People using CBD as a muscle relaxer, anti-convulsant, sleep aid, or any other kind of therapy are left to figure it out for themselves. Needless to say, this is not how medicine should work. Fortunately, CBD has not been shown to be addictive or dangerous in high doses, but the presence of THC in a significant number of samples suggests that people using CBD for their health problems might get high when they don’t mean to, or even worse, kids could be inadvertently given intoxicants without their parents realizing it.

“These findings highlight the need for manufacturing and testing standards, and oversight of medicinal cannabis products,” write the study’s authors.

If you liked this article, check out this video on how smoking weed affects your brain.

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