CBD has become extremely popular. But do you really know what’s in the product that you are buying? 

Choosing the right product can be a challenge. Some labels are trustworthy, others are sketchy. When you purchase a new product, you need to be a well-informed reader of CBD labels, no matter if you shop online, at the store, or at a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. 

Keep reading to learn how you can properly interpret the language on a CBD label. 

Official requirements for a CBD label

What information must legally be printed on a CBD label? The answer is: it depends on the state. 

You will find the best labels in state-licensed dispensaries. The most specific requirements are found in states that have rulings for labels. For instance, the state of California demands several of the label features you will learn about here. 

No federal laws govern the use of CBD. However, maybe you have noticed that manufacturers of CBD often make the product appear similar to federally regulated food labels (the ones that tell you about calories).  

The sketchiest labels for CBD products will not feature a label that looks either state-licensed or similar to a food label. When you go online and buy a product that supposedly has “hemp oil” in it, you may or may not end up with actual CBD. 

CBD serving sizes and servings per unit

The most vital piece of information you can get from a CBD label is dosage. 

Almost all CBD product units carry a label that tells you exactly how much CBD is contained in the unit. CBD is typically measured in milligram (which is a thousandth of a gram). One milligram corresponds to about 3.5 oz. 

Serving size is the second important piece of information you should find on the label, along with the amount of CBD for each serving, as well as the number of servings per unit. 

  • The serving size defines one serving for a particular product; for instance, one gummy bear, one tablet, or one droplet from a tincture. 
  • The amount of CBD for each serving will tell you how much CBD is in one gummy bear, or one tablet, etc. 
  • The quantity of servings per unit tells you how many servings, i.e. gummy bears, etc., are in the product unit (which could be a jar or a package). 

If you live in a state that offers licensed medical or recreational marijuana systems, a single dosage of CBD is typically defined as 10 mg. However, there is no such thing as a standard CBD dose. How much CBD you should take depends on your medical condition, method of consumption, body weight, and other aspects. 

Where does your CBD oil come from? 

It is also important to know where your CBD product is sourced. Products that are licensed and part of the medical and recreational marijuana markets will derive from plants that are grown for their strong potency, smell, or taste. They typically have THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, which is responsible for the feeling of getting high. Hemp-based CBD, on the other hand, is derived from industrial hemp, which contains no more than 0.3% THC. 

Another key piece of language are the expressions “CBD isolate” versus “broad spectrum” or “full spectrum.” 

  • full spectrum means that additional cannabinoids or terpenes are present, with THC included. 
  • broad spectrum means that additional cannabinoids or terpenes, excluding THC
  • CBD isolate is the ‘purest’ CBD, as it contains no additional cannabinoids or terpenes. 

These terms are not used in official federal policies and cannot be compared to a label such as “organic,” which is used by the USDA. 

Watch out for labels that either do not mention CBD or are unclear about where the product was sourced. Anything labeled as “hemp extract” and “hemp oil” should be treated with caution. These vague expressions allow manufacturers to evade responsibility when asked whether their products actually contain CBD. Amazon is full of such products that supposedly have medical properties, but do not have so much as a trace of CBD. 

Things to be aware of

An official state-licensed marijuana product can have batch or lot numbers on the packaging. These signal accountability; if there are no batch and lot numbers, it is impossible to tell where or when exactly a product was produced. A license number can serve a similar function: most state-licensed products can be looked up and checked by the consumer.

Over longer time periods, CBD can degrade; that’s why it is important to look out for manufacturing dates. When you buy flower, fresher is better. You should consume your edibles or tinctures within a few months – do not let them sit on a shelf for years. 

Certificates by third parties affirm the manufacturer’s claims on a label. Apart from state-licensed systems, individual agencies offer certification programs that attest to the accuracy of a CBD label. For example, the Certificate of Analysis (COA) provides laboratory testing for cannabis. Watch out for sellers who take old COA labels and put them on products in their current inventory. 

Keep your eyes peeled for other ingredients. Many CBD products contain more than just cannabinoids. Of course, gummy bears will contain some sugar, food coloring, and artificial flavors. A tincture is usually made from spirits; it might also contain glycerine. Be sure to check if the ingredients are of good quality, and look out for anything that might cause allergies. 

Ever seen those strange black square barcodes on a CBD product? Those are QR codes. You can read them with an app on your phone. They are an excellent option for checking product quality. Try scanning a product’s QR code: typically you will be able to access test results, which can reassure you that the product is of good quality. 

Finally, a manufacturing company that takes the quality of its products seriously will include some general information, such as a link to a website or an address. A manufacturer that does not place a label and name on a product is hardly trustworthy. 

Which ingredients should I avoid? 

There are some ingredients which you might actively want to avoid. After reading this article, the words “hemp oil” or “hemp extract” should be a red flag to you. They are nonspecific and indicate that there is no CBD in the product you are purchasing. 

Be careful when purchasing vape pens with additives. Avoid vitamins, flavors, thickeners, thinners, and essential oils should all be. There is no FDA control of the ingredients that sellers put into their vaping liquids. Three additives will soon be banned in Colorado: MCT oil, PEG, as well as tocopheryl acetate. The latter has already been banned in Washington state. 

Do not trust unspecific descriptions such as “natural ingredients.” There are several “natural ingredients” that should not be vaped, such as vegetable oil. 

Please keep in mind…

When purchasing CBD products, pay attention to the label: there are many sketchy “hemp oils” out there that do not contain CBD at all. Look out for the total amount of CBD in milligrams on a label, as well as serving sizes and sources of the oil. License, lot, and batch numbers ensure accountability if you’re buying at a state-licensed dispensary.

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