CBD in all of its forms seems to be available everywhere, from the grocery store to the corner bodega. Its use in relieving stress, anxiety and everyday aches and pains has been shown time and time again through academic research studies as well as anecdotal evidence from the millions of people who use it, and a recent Gallup poll showed that 14 percent of adults in the US have used CBD products.

Where then, are those millions of people getting it? CBD is legal and widely available, but like any type of product, the quality of it may vary depending on whether you buy it from a trusted retailer who vets their brands, or from a dodgy corner store who gets it at a deep discount from a guy who sells it out of the trunk of his car.

Finding CBD isn’t hard, but finding good quality CBD may take some effort. To date, the FDA has not moved very quickly in imposing regulations and oversight. Because it is a new product category in high demand, very profitable, and the regulatory framework is still emerging, the environment is ripe for less reputable vendors to take advantage of consumers by implementing quick-and-dirty manufacturing facilities which produce inconsistent products with varying levels of purity.

The rapidly growing CBD market is expected to generate over $20 billion in sales by 2024, and that astounding figure has naturally attracted a lot of entrepreneurs. Unfortunately some are getting into the business without realizing the complexity of the extraction process, or the expense involved in producing and marketing a high quality CBD product. To be sure, there is money to be made, but this is no get-rich-quick opportunity. Setting up an extraction lab is not cheap. Getting into CBD on the retail side may be a little easier, but retailers also need to understand what goes into a quality product, how to adequately vet products, and what they need to do to reassure customers that the products they are selling are the best on the market.

One reason why it is so important to consider quality is the potential for contamination. The CBD extraction process is complicated and expensive. When done right, the resulting product will be exactly what it claims to be. But for example, if you are buying a CBD isolate, you want to make sure that the product does not contain contaminants, cannabinoids other than CBD, or trace amounts of THC. Some CBD oils, specifically full spectrum oils, do contain less than 0.3 percent THC, and there are legitimate reasons why a full spectrum product may be desirable, depending on your circumstance. But still others may require an isolate for any number of reasons, not the least of which is a low tolerance for THC, or fear of a false positive drug test. You need reassurance that your CBD isolate is CBD and nothing more.

The best way to reassure yourself that what is on the label is what you are buying is to look for brands which offer a lab report from a reliable third-party laboratory. This Certificate of Analysis will test for harmful synthetic components, the presence of contaminants, percentage of CBD, and the presence of, and percentage of THC, if any.

As CBD gains in popularity, it will become easier to spot the more reputable and recognizable brands. Unfortunately, bootleg and fake CBD products do exist. Before CBD became legal with the passage of the Farm Bill of 2018, some isolated reports discovered fake products containing synthetic cannabinoids instead of CBD. The synthetics triggered adverse reactions which are not found in users of CBD. With more active FDA oversight, and participation on the part of legitimate and mainstream companies, those instances have diminished. Still, it pays to be aware. Be wary of CBD products which cheap-looking labels, unusually low prices or over-the-top health claims.

Before purchasing CBD, consider not only the product itself, but from whom you are purchasing it. Larger retailers, mainstream pharmacies like CVS and grocery store chains like Kroger typically have a more rigorous process for purchasing than would a local shop. Similarly, online vendors such as Nug Republic have been around ever since CBD became legal to sell, and have had an opportunity to cultivate relationships with the most trusted brands.

It may seem overwhelming, but a few simple rules will help guide your purchase:

  • Buy CBD from a trusted retailer.
  • Look for established brands that offer detailed information about their extraction process.
  • Look for manufacturers which provide a third party lab’s Certificate of Analysis.
  • Avoid “too good to be true” deals of cheap products, free trials or products which make over-the-top claims.

Ordinary consumer awareness is appropriate for nearly everything we buy. Many people buy deceptively-labeled “wheat bread” thinking they are getting whole wheat, when they aren’t. You may think that generic off-brand laundry detergent is just as good as the more expensive brand name, but you’ll soon discover that it turns your clothes pale. Bottom-shelf liquor doesn’t taste as good as the booze the liquor store keeps in a special case, and the stitching on that knock-off Prada handbag is going to unravel. Pay attention to the label, the manufacturer and the retailer to get the most benefit from your CBD.

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