Is Your CBD Oil a Scam?
Your CBD oil may not be what you think it is.
There are a large variety of plants in the Cannabis family. The plants classified as Cannabis sativa L. come in two major phenotypes: the fiber producing variety and the medicine producing variety. A phenotype is essentially the physical properties expressed as a result of the interaction between the environment and the genetic makeup of the plant.
The term “hemp” usually refers to the fiber producing variety of Cannabis sativa, although you can also create hemp CBD oil from this plant. Whether or not a Cannabis plant is considered a medicine producing variety depends on the levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produced. The classifications are often measured as a ratio of THC to CBD. Hemp varieties should have a higher ratio of CBD to THC, medicine producing varieties have a higher ratio of THC to CBD.
Some groups have identified the varieties as “chemotypes” because of the different chemical expression of cannabinoids, and often include a third classification of plant in which the THC and CBD levels are relatively equal, or about 1:1.
The terminology is confusing because terms are often misused and there are no standardized definitions. It is also possible to mislead consumers by publishing the ratio of CBD to THC instead of the overall content. Hemp varieties have a very high ratio of CBD to THC, but that is not because CBD levels are high, but often because THC levels are extremely low. While some therapeutic effect may result, it is not nearly as efficient or effective as obtaining CBD from a variety cultivated specifically for high CBD levels by weight.
Some retailers may sell a “hemp oil” as a medicinal product. However, this is misleading because technically hemp oil is a product of the hemp seeds and typically has very low cannabinoid content.
CBD oil is another commonly marketed product that consists of concentrated CBD dissolved in oil (which may or may not be derived from hemp oil). CBD oil is one way to take CBD for medicinal purposes, so the expectation is that the levels of CBD would be high in this product. In the US, different states have specified the THC or CBD content that could qualify a product as high CBD, but these range from having CBD levels as low as 3% to 15% CBD by weight.
The FDA has issued several warning letters to dealers of CBD oil after finding that many products were mislabeled and actually had very low CBD levels. Consumers should be wary and ask to see actual numbers in terms of weight or percent by weight. There has been a call to standardize terms and products in the cannabis industry in order to address these issues. The ASTM has formed a committee to discuss cannabis products and propose a series of standards for the industry. They will be advised by groups that have been working on this issue for several years now such as the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS).
Different countries or regions have different legal definitions of hemp based on THC levels, expressed as percent by weight of plant material (flowers, upper leaves, stems). In Europe, hemp is defined as those plants with no more than 0.2% THC and in Canada no more than 0.3% THC. In the US, hemp can be grown only for research purposes with a special license, and should have THC levels of no more than 0.3%.
Recreational and medicinal Cannabis are varieties that are bred for high levels of THC or CBD. Breeders have produced varieties of Cannabis with THC levels of over 15%, used to treat severe pain and cancer or medicinal varieties with CBD levels of up to 20%. The hemp varieties of Cannabis are primarily grown for fiber and seeds. Hemp fiber is very tough and durable, and hemp seeds have exceptional health benefits. It should be remembered that while hemp varieties do tend to produce some CBD, the levels are typically too low to be therapeutic.