A study of products containing hemp-derived THC found that more than half are mislabeled, with the potency advertised on packaging varying substantially from the cannabinoid levels determined by independent laboratory analysis. The research also determined that many of the products were far more potent than regulated edible products available in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. A report on the study, which tested more than 50 products labeled as containing delta-9 THC from hemp, was published online recently by online education resource CBD Oracle.
“Our lab analysis reveals that while most hemp delta-9 products (96%) fall within the limits set by the 2018 Farm Bill, slightly over half varied substantially from their advertised dosage,” CBD Oracle wrote in an article about the study. “The dosages were also much higher than the allowable dosages for edibles in legal states, some 3.7-fold higher than the maximum allowed in states like Colorado or California.”
To conduct the study, researchers purchased 53 popular products containing hemp-derived THC, the cannabinoid associated with the classic high produced by marijuana. Although delta-9 THC was specifically singled out as illegal by the legalization of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, many manufacturers are using an apparent legal loophole to market the hemp-derived cannabinoid nationwide. CBD Oracle reports that the products are “generally marketed as ‘hemp delta-9,’ ‘CBD + THC,’ ‘Full Spectrum’ or ‘Compliant delta-9,’ and are available online and in retail stores in all 50 states.” The researchers estimate that 120 companies are producing such products nationwide, including 89 that market them online. The study identified 1,800 individual product SKUs available for sale.
The products purchased for the study included selections from 48 different brands. Researchers used online search volumes and consumer recommendations to identify the most popular products available and estimate that the 53 individual products selected represent approximately 40% of the hemp-derived THC market. All products were purchased online and included a variety of individual product types, including one vape pen and one tincture, plus a large selection of edible products such as gummies, cookies, brownies, chocolate and other candies.
Hemp THC Products Available Nationwide
The products selected were from manufacturers located in 18 states, including jurisdictions that have legalized adult-use cannabis, some that have medicinal marijuana programs and others with no forms of legal weed. The products selected for the study were sent to InfiniteCAL, an independent laboratory specializing in testing cannabis products. The laboratory analyzed the products for potency and the presence of contaminants such as pesticides, residual solvents and heavy metals. All products were tested within two weeks of purchase to prevent product degradation. Results of the independent lab testing were then compared to the potency printed on packaging or included in certificates of analysis (COAs) when provided, although researchers determined that 75% of the products weren’t tested by manufacturers.
The independent analysis determined that 96% percent of products contained no more than the Farm Bill’s limit of 0.3% delta-9 THC for hemp products. However, the dosage of the individual products was often high, with packaging claiming to contain between 0.5 mg and 40 mg of THC per serving. Less than half (49%) of the products, however, were found to be within 15% of the claimed dosage. Most products contained delta-9 THC that had been chemically derived from CBD, with 64% using an isomerization process to produce their high levels of THC. On the positive side, all products were free of solvents, pesticides, metals, mycotoxins, microbials and foreign matter.
In addition to determining that half of the hemp-derived THC products were labeled with incorrect potency levels, CBD Oracle identified other issues regarding consumer safety and transparency with the products in the study. Although only 15% of products were not lab tested, 75% weren’t analyzed for safety.
A fifth used non-ISO certified labs, while only 51% used labs that have been certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A little more than half (51%) of products didn’t have a batch number, making it impossible to trace manufacturing or safety issues back to the source of the problem. While 83% of the packages included a safety warning label, 74% didn’t use the Cannabis Universal Symbol. More than three-quarters (81%) of products didn’t use a child-resistant container. The study also found the products were available to children and young adults, with the manufacturers of 85% of products not using age verification technology during online purchase and 98% of products failing to require the signature of an adult at delivery.
Overall, the study demonstrates that consumers who choose to purchase hemp-derived THC are likely safe from contaminated products. The potency, however, is a different story altogether.
“The lab results show that more than half of hemp delta-9 products differ from the advertised dosage by more than 15%,” the authors of the report wrote. “In other words, whether you’ll get the amount of delta-9 you were promised is a little worse than a coin flip. It’s skewed towards lower amounts than advertised, but there’s a chance that you get up to 60% more THC than you were expecting (taking the worst example).”
The complete results of the study, including lab analysis for the 53 tested products, are available online.