These days, you can find cannabidiol, a substance commonly referred to as CBD, everywhere: In gummies, oils and lotions, supplements and functional beverages. A natural substance derived from cannabis, CBD occurs in both marijuana and the hemp plant. Unlike THC, it is not psychoactive and therefore does not give you the feeling of being “high.” CBD products claim to help you (and your pet!) sleep, lose weight, control pain, and combat anxiety.
A 2022 analysis revealed just how explosive growth of the North American CBD market is. With a CAGR of over 21%, sales of CBD products are expected to surpass $47 billion by 2028. Already they approach $5 billion.
As with any newly emerging market, the problem is that many companies are selling CBD products but a lot are not high quality. At present, since CBD is considered a supplement, the products are not even regulated by the FDA. It therefore can be difficult for consumers to separate the good from the bad.
This is why, in 2018, the U.S. Hemp Authority was established to complete third-party audits. Inspections include stringent in-person testing and viewing of a CBD company’s manufacturing facilities, marketing materials, and quality testing. It is not easy for companies to earn the official seal of approval. If they do pass inspection, they are allowed to use the U.S. Hemp Authority logo.
“Having the U.S. Hemp Authority logo on your products and website is considered a real badge of honor amongst the CBD community,” says Jay Hartenbach, the founder and executive chairman of MedTerra, a “seed to sale” CBD products company. MedTerra believes high quality CBD products should be affordable. Their gummies, topicals, capsules and pet products are not only certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, but also non-GMO and made in America. “If you don’t see the U.S. Hemp Authority badge, then ask for the company to produce certification.”
Daniel Young, PhD is the founder and CEO of Black Dahlia, a company that develops and produces artisanal botanical products to support wellness, including edibles, elixirs, skincare, fragrances, and home products such as candles and incense. He trained as a research scientist at MIT before launching his entrepreneurial career.
“When I started Black Dahlia, I focused on developing novel all-natural formulations for hemp extracts that would enhance absorption of their beneficial components,” Young says. “We use versions of these all-natural proprietary formulations in our edibles and topicals.”
Like Hartenbach, Young recommends checking for third-party verification of any CBD company products. In addition, he suggests looking for educational content on the website and packaging.
“We educate our customers on our website so that they know the differences between full-spectrum hemp, broad-spectrum hemp, CBD isolate, and so on. A lot of packaging now includes QR codes that can be scanned with a customer's smartphone camera. We use this technique with our edibles packaging, including our gelées, bonbons and lollipops. We believe that an educated customer is a happy customer,” Young says.
Hartenbach agrees. Beyond reading the online information, he recommends that any first-time consumers of CBD call or chat with a company’s customer support team. “The best CBD companies have invested significantly in their customer support teams,” he says. “MedTerra's customer care agents are paid significantly more than their peers outside the industry because they are knowledgeable about the products and take time to make sure you feel comfortable with your purchase. If the company you’re looking to buy from doesn’t pick up the phone or have an online chat option, look elsewhere.”
Another suggestion from Hartenbach is to always read labels carefully. Some brands may be advertising their products as containing premium CBD when CBD is not even listed in the ingredients! He explains, “These companies are looking to cut corners by replacing CBD with hemp extract or hemp seed oil, which are significantly cheaper but also ineffective.”
Finally, Hartenbach says, be sure to only purchase from online platforms that allow the sale of CBD. Many do not, including Amazon. You can bet that companies still selling “CBD” products on these platforms are hoping to misinform consumers. “Just search ‘CBD’ on Amazon and see for yourself,” he cautions. “These are products you should stay away from if you’re looking for true CBD.”