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Cannabidiol products sold online are most often mislabeled

A study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has found that 70 percent of all cannabidiol products sold online are not labeled correctly, potentially causing serious harm to consumers. Lead author Marcel Bonn-Miller believes the mislabeling of cannabidiol products is a direct result of the insufficient regulation of the drug.

“The big problem, with this being something that is not federally legal, is that the needed quality assurance oversight from the Food and Drug Administration is not available,” said Bonn-Miller. “There are currently no standards for producing, testing, or labeling these oils.”

Cannabidiol, a natural chemical found in marijuana plants, has been the subject of much interest in recent years as research has shown the compound has many therapeutic uses. CBD provides medical benefits without making patients feel intoxicated because it is not a psychoactive drug like marijuana.

In states where it has been legalized, patients report using CBD for a variety of health conditions including epilepsy, migraines, insomnia, and anxiety. Business experts estimate that the market for CBD products will spike to over $2 billion in consumer sales within the next three years.

While the interest in CBD continues to grow, the regulation of products containing CBD is not keeping up with the pace. This is primarily due to the fact that CBD is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance despite its legal status in many states. Most CBD products are purchased online, where sites often do not even use the term cannabidiol to avoid getting into trouble.

“So, right now, if you buy a Hershey bar, you know it has been checked over; you know how many calories are in it, you know it has chocolate as an ingredient, you know how much chocolate is in there” said Bonn-Miller. “Selling these oils without oversight, there is no way to know what is actually in the bottle. It’s crazy to have less oversight and information about a product being widely used for medicinal purposes, especially in very ill children, than a Hershey bar.”

Bonn-Miller and his team purchased and analyzed 84 products containing CBD from 31 online retailers. They found that at least 42 percent of the products were under-labeled, meaning that the product contained a higher concentration of CBD than indicated. 26 percent of the products examined by the team were over-labeled, meaning the product contained a lower concentration of CBD than indicated on the label.

Only 30 percent of the CBD products purchased by the researchers contained an actual CBD content that was within 10 percent of the amount on the product label. While excessive CBD is not thought to be dangerous, the wrong dosage may negate the therapeutic effects of the drug.

“People are using this as medicine for many conditions (anxiety, inflammation, pain, epilepsy),” said Bonn-Miller. “The biggest implication is that many of these patients may not be getting the proper dosage; they’re either not getting enough for it to be effective or they’re getting too much.”

A number of the products analyzed for the study also contained a significant amount of THC, the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for making people feel high. THC is linked to cognitive impairment and other negative health effects. Because this medication is often given to children who suffer from epilepsy, parents could be giving their child THC without realizing it.

“Future research should be focused on making sure people are paying attention to this issue and encouraging regulation in this rapidly expanding industry,” said Bonn-Miller.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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