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70 percent of CBD products sold online are improperly labeled

A new study found that the majority of medical marijuana products you find on the internet may be unsafe and ineffective.
Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that can treat pain and anxiety. But CBD supplements you find online may be unsafe and ineffective. Photo: ISTOCK

A week after the FDA issued warnings to four companies making erroneous claims that their marijuana-based supplements could cure cancer, more cannabis co’s are being called out for distributing misinformation about their products.   

A new study published in the Journal of the Medical Association found that only 31 percent of online cannabidiol (CBD) supplements are inaccurately labeled. 

CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical receptor of the marijuana plant, doesn’t actually get you high, but it can help relieve pain and anxiety. In the 29 states where medical marijuana is legal, patients commonly seek out CBD in the form of tinctures (liquid extracts), vaporizer liquids and oils to treat a number of conditions, from seizures to insomnia. 

Unsurprisingly, there’s also a market for it online, where the supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. 

The team of researchers took 84 CBD products currently sold online by 31 different companies and had them chemically analyzed in a lab. Beyond the discrepancy between the amount of CBD listed on the labels and the actual quantities in the supplements, they also found that 18 out of the 84 products contained THC, cannabis’ psychoactive component, although that ingredient was omitted from labels. You can imagine the issue this might pose for a consumer who thinks they’re purchasing an ointment to treat a lower back ache and then gets a surprise high. 

Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at UPenn and the lead author of the study, told CNN that while the findings weren’t surprising to him, they were worrisome. “It got me thinking, we need oversight of this industry," he said. "(It's) one thing on the recreational side, but here we're talking about something that people are using almost exclusively medicinally. You don't get high off of CBD."

Until these products are regulated, be wary of any CBD supplements you see online. If medical cannabis is legal in your state, obtain your CBD oils from a cannabis dispensary or a doctor licensed to prescribed medical cannabis.