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CBD and Hemp: Uncovering the Truth

How lack of knowledge and the rise in popularity inflates the risk of dangerous counterfeit products

New and old science has brought the benefits of cannabidiol, known as CBD, to the forefront of medical and consumer interest.

What was once widely misunderstood by the general public has become a highly in-demand product for a myriad of reasons. 

Many who use CBD products tout the benefits for any number of health issues – both physical and mental. According to Harvard Health, CBD poses potential benefits for those suffering from chronic discomfort, such as that caused by arthritis, inflammatory and neuropathic discomfort; however, science continues deeper studies into these potential benefits. 

Patients who suffer from stress and insomnia have shown CBD’s potential to treat these miserable – yet common – conditions. Despite the demand and increasingly found benefits, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved one CBD product, currently a prescription medication to treat two severe forms of epilepsy, such as dravet syndrome, Epiodiolex.

A New Horizon: Legalization and Availability

In the past couple of years, the United States has seen an impressive gain in acceptance and legalization of cannabidiol products and medical marijuana – some states even going further with decriminalizing recreational marijuana use. Much of this due to the continued studies showing potential benefits to such a large amount of the population. 

Because of CBD’s potential to help so many suffering from various ailments, its rise to legalization has proven to have both benefits and negative consequences. While marijuana remains illegal in several states, CBD’s benefits has piqued the curiosity of scientists, doctors and federal organizations.

Unfortunately, the ignorance surrounding these products remains pivotal in truly providing benefits to those who need it. Much of the population is still confused by CBD and other cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.

THC, found in marijuana, produces the high most associated with smoking or using the marijuana plant. While CBD and THC are both chemical compounds of this family of plants, they offer different benefits to the human body. So far, 66 of the nearly 500 natural components of Cannabis sativa are classified as cannabinoids. 

Despite information being widely available, many people still confuse CBD products with medical marijuana. While CBD is also found in beneficial amounts in marijuana, legal CBD products most typically come from the hemp plant and have a very low concentration of THC. Many states only allow CBD with an almost undetectable amount of THC, <.03 percent. 

Counterfeit: The Perfect Storm

With so much of the population experiencing varying types of chronic pain, stress and increasingly high anxiety levels, CBD is becoming a go-to medication. Many people are intrigued by the natural benefits and eager to experience relief without the use of potentially addictive or otherwise harmful pharmaceuticals.

Despite not being approved by the FDA, many doctors recommend trying a CBD product to their patients. With the potential relief on the horizon, many patients seek out CBD products without truly understanding which product may be best for them – or what to look for in specific products.

Combine the ignorance surrounding these products and the growing list of potential benefits for much of the population and we have all parts of a perfect storm of dangerous situations. It is not uncommon to stop at any convenience store and find CBD products in various types: CBD cigarettes, vape pens, drinks, tinctures, pills, creams, candies and more. Unfortunately, this wide market has invited dishonest individuals and businesses to enter the game. 

Many of the products found on shelves of grocery and convenience stores are purposely mislabeled, leading to various types of counterfeit products. Some products have little or no CBD despite their labeled claims; others are synthetic products, some of which have proven to be harmful to the human body. 

It’s almost the perfect scheme for dishonest businesses. These businesses create a cheap product promising to be one of the most in-demand supplements on the market and make it widely available and less expensive than reputable brands. In short, they make money on people suffering. 

A Push for Regulations

Local news sources have investigated CBD products found in their region, finding that many of them contain absolutely no cannabidiol. In February 2020, WTHR, a local news station in Indianapolis completed an investigative report on CBD to find out what was really in some of the products marketed around the area. They purchased several types of products from around the area – toothpastes, drinks, candies, creams and more – then sent them to an accredited lab to test for cannabidiol amounts. 

While several of the products actually had a bit more CBD than labeled (a good thing), many failed remarkably, some even testing with zero percent CBD in the product. A majority of the companies refuted the test results and some offered explanations as to why the products failed.

A more unsettling investigation took place in Utah between 2017 and 2018. The investigation began as a result of numerous CBD-related emergency department visits. The cases varied in reactions to the products, including hallucinations, lack of consciousness and seizures, none of which are consistent with known side effects of cannabidiol.

The investigation led to the discovery of products labeled as CBD containing no true CBD, but a synthetic version known as 4-cyano CUMYL-BUTINACA, or 4-CCB. During the investigation into these dangerous CBD-related incidents, 80 percent of patients tested positive for 4-CCB. 

Not only do these types of investigations uncover the dangers of not researching your CBD products, they yearn for state and federal lawmakers to further regulate CBD products and help protect against fraudulent products 

Conclusion: Know Your Product and Purchase from Reputable Companies

While counterfeit products line the shelves of convenience stores and online markets, reputable manufacturers of high quality products remain present. Those who thoroughly test their product and maintain the highest levels of integrity throughout the process experience setbacks and negative consequences from counterfeit product manufacturers. It is increasingly imperative for consumers to thoroughly research what they are putting in or on their bodies – CBD is only one example.