If you're even an occasional online shopper and you have sore knees or some other chronic pain, you’ve probably developed a Pavlovian instinct to look to Google for help. And these days, of course, there are scores of companies eager to sell you cannabidiol oil or other CBD products to provide relief.
The thing is, you don’t want to buy from just anyone. A 2017 scientific paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that nearly 70% of all cannabidiol products sold online lack accurate labeling—meaning they had either less or more CDB than indicated. Or that they contained THC. Other studies have raised the specter of problematic ingredients.
None of this should necessarily come as a surprise: Soaring public demand for CBD products has led to forecasts that the market will surpass $2 billion in the next two years, and it’s projected to hit $24 billion by 2024. The supplement market has long seethed with morally compromised opportunists, and because of federal laws around cannabis, the government provides no regulation or oversight, says Kyle Boyar, a field application scientist for Medical Genomics, a company using genetics to develop testing technologies for cannabis. “It’s been a problem for a long time,” says Boyar, who from 2012-2016 ran one of the nation’s first labs that tested the potency of cannabis. “What you’re seeing now is that the floodgates are open because everybody is using CBD oil."
See Also Does CBD Work for Pain Management?
The FDA is on the case, albeit at its usual glacial pace. Last May, it held public hearings on the question of standards and regulation and continues to gather public input. That could go on for a while. In the meantime, Boyar says, customers need to be educated shoppers: Look for products made from hemp grown in the United States and that list per-dose quantities of CBD. Look for rigorous third-party testing from a credible lab; specifically, inquire about the product’s certificate of analysis (COA), which shows how a product scored on tests checking for CDB and THC levels.
Two solid choices: Oregon's Lazarus Naturals sells products to both retailers and consumers, and is serious enough that it has its own government-affairs director. NuLeaf Naturals, located in Denver, is another established and reputable source.
As for how much CBD to use? Dr. Amanda River, who prescribes medical marijuana via Natural Remedy MD in Norman, Oklahoma, says she typically recommends a starting dose of 0.5mg/kg (milligram per kilogram), divided into 2-3 doses through the day. “For some conditions, more may be necessary, but we always start low until we know what side effects or medication interactions may occur,” she says. If patients are taking other medications or high doses of CBD, it is best to consult with their doctor, River says.
Of course, finding your effective dose requires that your product actually carries the main ingredient. And that’s a great place to start. You can Google it.
Tips for the educated shopper:
• Look for per-dose CBD quantities.
• Expect a Certificate of Analysis.
• Favor made-in-the-USA.
• Go organic.
How Potent is Weed These Days?
The stuff Nancy Reagan didn’t want you to smoke had a ratio of CBD to THC of about 1:1, meaning the calming CBD offset much of the effect of the paranoia-inducing THC. The THC percentage in 1980 was about 1.5%. In the ‘90s, it was 3 to 4%. Now? Try 12% THC, and that’s not all. CBD concentrations in weed have dropped by half since the mid-’90s, a paper in Biological Psychiatry found. The ratio of CBD to THC was about 14:1 when Jerry Garcia died in 1995; by 2014 it was 80:1. It’s high-octane and the brakes aren’t as good. Drive safely.