Scientists find THC in over 60% of the CBD products they’ve tested – and it can be a huge problem
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the second most common active ingredient in the Cannabis-sativa plant, also known as cannabis and marijuana. This isolated compound does not produce a high when consumed, unlike smoking marijuana, which produces an intense psychoactive effect due to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
More recently, the use of CBD has increased as people have turned to it to enjoy the calming and feel-good effects of marijuana without the high. In 2020, the global CBD market was $2.7 billion and is expected to grow to $55 billion in 2028. But just because the market is now huge doesn’t mean all CBD products are created equal.
For example, in a new study, researchers purchased 80 different CBD products from online stores or stores in Kentucky and were shocked to find that over 60% of them contained a sizable amount of THC. This is extremely concerning and potentially illegal in some states where cannabis is still illegal. People who have zero tolerance to THC can become intoxicated with repeated use, as the psychoactive compound tends to build up in fat cells as the impure product is used over time. This could become a big problem if the user is driving or performing a motor task that could put their safety at risk.
The products tested by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine researchers also included Epidiolex, which is the only FDA-approved CBD product. The product is prescribed to help control epileptic seizures and its manufacture is strictly regulated, unlike other CBD products on the market which are designated as supplements and have little oversight.
The researchers found that Epidiolex contains 0.022 milligrams of THC per milliliter, which in this context is an acceptable amount given the manufacturing process. However, all but five of the impure CBD products identified by the researchers contained higher levels of THC than in Epidiolex. Eleven products had THC concentrations above 1 milligram per millilitre, and one had 2 milligrams per millilitre, nearly 100 times more than Epidiolex.
“It’s concerning because a lot of older people are taking CBD and taking a lot of other medications, and they might have high levels of THC in their product,” said Shanna Babalonis, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Kentucky College. of medicine and author of the new study.
Ingesting even trace amounts of THC could potentially cause all sorts of problems. In states like Washington, if a driver is found to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood, they automatically get a cannabis DUI. In many professions, such as the military, pilots and athletes, there is often a zero tolerance policy for THC. Many athletes take CBD because it helps fight inflammation and may help some people sleep better. But imagine being banned from the Olympics, where THC is strictly prohibited in any amount found in the blood, after using a CBD product that you were repeatedly told does not contain THC.
“I think one of the main takeaways from this work is that the public needs to ask themselves if there’s THC in their CBD products,” Babalonis said.
The main takeaway here is that not all CBD products are created equal, and consumers should be aware that some of these oils and edibles may contain THC, in greater or lesser amounts. About 30% of the products the researchers tested contained virtually no THC, so it is possible to make a pure product if the manufacturing and quality testing is done correctly.
Given the risks to consumers, researchers are calling for stricter regulation of CBD products. For now, the market is still the Wild West and consumers should buy CBD with caution.
“If you buy a drink at the grocery store, you expect it to say there’s no alcohol in it, that there’s no alcohol in it,” Babalonis said. . “You wouldn’t drink it expecting to feel the effects of alcohol or maybe be positive on a breathalyzer. It’s the same thing.”
The results are published in the journal Drug and alcohol addiction.