There is no doubt that the emerging CBD market is a category that is going to stick around. This is not a fad. People of all backgrounds are seeing actual results. The myriad success stories of CBD paired with the rapid growth of both the domestic hemp supply and the public’s awareness around CBD have created a very exciting market. The number of companies selling CBD products has been increasing at an exponential rate since 2014. This is generally a good thing as more people need to learn about CBD and be exposed to its benefits, but there are also a lot of companies looking to take advantage of a new market with little regulation and potentially giant margins. That’s not to say these companies are selling bad products, but it’s good to cover some qualifying questions to ensure quality. So, here are some basic questions we think are worth asking of your potential CBD supplier (or at least answer by digging through their FAQ):
Are Potency Tests (Certificate of Analyses) Available?
Any legitimate company should be able to provide test results for their products. From an independent third party lab. They should be able to demonstrate the potency of cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBDa. The results should match up with the labels.
THC levels should be under 0.3% to be considered a legal hemp product, and low enough to almost certainly rule out an psychoactive effects. It’s highly unlikely to fail a drug test using hemp CBD products, but it’s good to check from time to time, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the brand. Another thing to check would be CBD vs CBDa (cannabidiolic acid) in your test results. Unless you are intentionally combusting or vaporizing your product above approximately 360 °F (i.e., using unprocessed hemp flower), the CBDa will not convert to CBD. While CBDa is beginning to show benefits in some studies, most people are trying to buy CBD, not CBDa. So make sure the manufacturer isn’t combining the CBDa results into the total “active” CBD listed on their label.
Does the CBD or Hemp Product Have Any Certifications?*
Some cultivated hemp flower and extraction processes in certain states have received organic certifications (three companies in total as of 9/9/18). OneCert, a USDA-Accredited Certification Agency, has certified the flower and extracted CBD that we source and use in our products as organic. So if you are seeking an organic product, there are some that do indeed contain certified organic hemp and CBD. Our infused coffees and teas have not yet been certified, which is why we don't have the USDA organic seal on our bags, but the ingredients themselves are all USDA organic.
Is the Hemp Grown Domestically or Abroad?
In the US, hemp is mostly grown to be rich in CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes (while staying low in THC). Most of it is processed to be used as ingredients for products in the general wellness industry. Hemp imported from Europe or Asia is historically grown for commercial or industrial reasons. They want the fibers of the plant, and the oils from the seeds (not cannabinoid extracts, but healthy fats). This introduces a lot of potential issues. More biomass is required for the same CBD because imported hemp is usually less than 5% CBD, whereas domestic hemp is nearing 20% CBD with certain strains. This has a greater environmental impact. Fewer organic practices are employed since the hemp isn’t always specifically grown for human or animal ingestion. Lastly, the fact that the hemp is being grown thousands of miles away isn’t ideal. Many welcome hemp as a great renewable resource, and transporting across an ocean when plenty (of legal, higher quality material) is available stateside doesn’t make the most sense. Most people would rather be supporting US farmers anyway.
CBD vs Hemp Extract Terminology (not exactly a question, but be careful).
Nomenclature in cannabis, especially as companies dance around using “CBD” on their labels and websites, can be downright confusing and frustrating. 1000 mg of full-spectrum CBD means 1000 mg of full-spectrum CBD. But to some companies avoiding CBD language out of caution or with hopes of selling on Amazon, 1000 mg “hemp extract” means 1000 mg CBD (wink wink). To others, it is quite literally 1000 mg of the actual decarboxylated (“activated”) extract of the hemp material. This extract may be only 60% CBD, another 5-10% in other cannabinoids (like THC, CBN, CBDa, CBG), and the rest in volatile terpenes and healthy fats. But that’s definitely not 1000 mg of CBD. There is nothing wrong with using any of this language or buying any of these products. Companies aren’t intentionally misleading buyers (we’d like to think) or trying to trick them into thinking they’re getting more CBD than in reality. Just do your due diligence as a consumer in a mostly unregulated market where labeling requirements and language are often the opposite of clear. “1000 mg CBD” is a lot different than “1000 mg Hemp Extract” if that extract happens to be only 60% CBD, and instead containing just 600 mg CBD. That hemp extract is over 50% more expensive on a CBD basis – pretty huge in the long run.
From our perspective, we do our best to make it clear how many mg CBD are in our products, both clearly on the front or center of our labels and in the ingredients list (as suggested by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment). We also indicate we use a full-spectrum hemp extract, so buyers can understand there is more than just 360 mg of CBD in our 12 oz coffee bags, for example (they also know we are avoiding using CBD isolate). We think this also leads to less confusion by plainly and visibly stating the amount of CBD in our products. We are not trying to hide anything, just to bring transparency to this difficult to navigate industry.
A quick aside: In our 12 oz coffee bags with 360 mg CBD, there’s almost another 200 mg of hemp extract in the bag that isn’t CBD - it’s other cannabinoids and terpenes and healthy fats. We are proponents of full-spectrum extracts. We believe keeping all of the cannabinoids and terpenes in their natural proportions without isolation or manipulation is best for working in synergy with CBD for amplified potential outcomes. That’s why we choose to keep THC in our products (though it’s less than 0.01% by weight before brewing), and don’t use CBD isolates as an ingredient.
Who Manufactures the Product?
This may not really matter to some, but to others it could be a big deal. Some companies never even touch their products. It’s possible to source an extract or other ingredients, design sexy labels and packaging, have it all sent to a co-packer for efficient scaling and assembly, and then finally sent on a pallet to a centrally located fulfillment center for order completion. Again, this is not an inherently bad thing by any means. Many companies with excellent products and customer support and loyalty do this exact model because it makes financial sense at a larger scale. But some customers derive comfort from knowing the companies they support are involved in the majority of the manufacturing process. We are fortunate enough to work directly with the our local roasting partners and CBD sources, manufacture all of our products in our commercial kitchen, and hand-pack each and every order.
*9/16/2018. This blog was edited to clarify statements about OneCert and organic CBD certifications.
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