Report: Many Commercially Marketed CBD Products Tainted with Psychoactive Adulterants

Thursday, 19 September 2019

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New York, NY: One-third of commercially marketed CBD products tested positive for the presence of synthetic, psychoactive adulterants while others tested negative for any presence of CBD, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

Reporters commissioned laboratory testing of 30 commercially available CBD products sold at retailers (non-state licensed dispensaries), including edible products and vapor products. The AP reported that ten of the 30 products analyzed tested positive for the presence of synthetic cannabinoids typically identified in illicit products such as 'Spice,' 'K2,' and other controlled substances. These synthetic agents are illegal under federal law and their consumption may be associated with significant adverse health effects.

A case report published in May in the journal Clinical Toxicology previously reported the identification of the synthetic cannabinoid agonist AB-FUBINACA (aka 5F-ADB) in a brand of CBD products commercially marketed online.

The AP reported that the adulterated products in question were marketed commercially in 13 states, including Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, and Texas. It acknowledged that the packaging and labeling typically fails to identify the manufacturers of the products.

Several of the products analyzed in the AP investigation also tested negative for the presence of CBD or only contained trace amounts of the compound – a finding that is consistent with those of prior reports. Last week, a Hawaii News Now report identified the presence of bacteria, THC, and only trace levels of CBD in several products commercially available at local retail markets. Not a single product tested contained the precise amount of CBD that was advertised on the packaging.

Currently, commercially marketed CBD-infused products are not subject to explicit federal regulations. As a result, third-party lab testing has frequently revealed inconsistencies between the percentage of CBD advertised and the amount actually contained in some of these products. In many cases – such as those reported here, here, here, here, and here – actual quantities of CBD in the product are far lower than advertised. In other cases, testing has revealed the presence of THC, which may put consumers in jeopardy for legal ramifications – such as arrest or the loss of employment (due to a drug test failure). Some commercial products have also been identified to contain elevated levels of heavy metals and solvents.

By contrast, CBD-infused products sold at state-licensed dispensaries are typically subject to state-specific regulations and lab testing protocols. 

In May, NORML provided written testimony to the US Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to move expeditiously to provide regulatory guidelines governing CBD-infused products, including best practices for their manufacturing, standardization, and purity. NORML opined: "For years, producers of these products have navigated in a gray area of the law – manufacturing products of variable and sometimes questionable quality and safety. Now it is time for the FDA to craft benchmark safety and quality standards for hemp-derived CBD products in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions and matures into a legal marketplace."

For more information, please see the NORML fact-sheet 'FAQs About Cannabidiol.' Full text of the Associated Press investigation is online.