All CBD Is Not Created Equal: Here’s What Leaders Should Know

The CBD revolution has begun. More and more, cannabidiol oil (CBD) is being used in a wide variety of consumer products, and investors are increasingly active in the industry. While questions linger over the cannabinoid’s efficacy, a more immediate concern has emerged: How can consumers, businesses and investors be assured the hemp companies and CBD products they select are everything touted?

The risks are substantial when a new product market explodes. As the CEO and co-founder of a large CBD products provider, I’ve seen that it’s common to find low-quality products manufactured without high standards. Businesses can easily hide their lack of quality control. Regulatory standards do not restrict growers. But, there might be substantial rewards for consumers and investors with the knowledge to make smart decisions. With so many producers and manufacturers entering the market, here’s what everyone needs to consider before diving into CBD:

Where The Product Was Grown

Imported CBD and hemp pose concerns you want to avoid. Hemp (the raw resource for CBD) is not like most plants. Known as a “bioaccumulator,” the hemp plant draws undesirable toxins out of the soil where it’s grown. Because it pulls pesticides, heavy metals and other substances from the soil, hemp is often grown to clean fields for other crops. Therefore, knowing exactly where and how hemp is grown is critical to making a sound buying decision.

Agricultural standards vary wildly across the globe, and it’s important to know that the hemp purchased is grown on healthy farmland in a cultivation environment that is safe and clean. Following the passage of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill in the U.S., many states witnessed a significant increase in hemp farming. To manage this growing agribusiness, states have created legitimate licensing and certification processes farmers must follow. This provides a layer of safety and accountability that helps to ensure high quality.

One of the quickest and easiest first steps to take when purchasing hemp or CBD products is to inquire exactly where the hemp was grown. If a company can’t provide a simple, straightforward answer about the origin of its products, then wise investors, consumers and businesses should look elsewhere.

False Certification Claims

In the U.S., a manufacturer recognized as following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) is a critical indicator of quality. These practices are required to conform to guidelines recommended by agencies that control the authorization and licensing of most consumer product manufacturing.

In the hemp and CBD industries — where regulation and oversight is nearly nonexistent — it’s easy for companies to misrepresent GMP certification. It’s not uncommon for some businesses to use a building’s previously earned GMP certification as proof of current certification when taking over manufacturing facilities.

Be certain that any GMP documentation includes the actual name of the company you’re considering as an investment or whose products you plan to purchase. It’s also common for businesses to reference a GMP audit as proof of full GMP certification. A one-time evaluation, a GMP audit only identifies corrective actions that must be taken to achieve eventual GMP certification. A GMP audit is not equal to full GMP certification.

A business that has completed the process to meet GMP standards will possess a certificate that includes the company’s name and full address, and it should be from no earlier than November 2019, when GMP status first became available for CBD products.

Before investing in, doing business with or purchasing products from any CBD company, be certain it is fully GMP-compliant. Conduct due diligence by checking the NSF International’s website to search for certified GMP facilities and businesses. Search for “dietary supplements,” and then limit your search to the state where the company is headquartered.

Extraction Practices

Because the industry is so young, hemp agriculture and CBD manufacturing are in a “Wild West” stage. Unregulated, unlicensed facilities pose quality concerns not only because of unpredictable product quality but also for employee health and safety and overall cleanliness. The extraction process used, as well as any potential contamination from the facility used in extraction, can have a huge impact on product quality.

There are a variety of approaches to the extraction process that create vastly different outcomes and impact the potency and overall quality of the product. A safe and effective process will ensure that cannabinoids are not damaged during the process.

To ensure high quality, ask the manufacturer about their extraction process and, again, check for their GMP status. If a company cannot provide information on its extraction practices, investors, businesses and consumers should steer clear.

Traceability And Accuracy

In an industry still in its infancy, how can a consumer be sure of any of the above issues? Be certain to work with or purchase from companies that meet GMP standards — and then demand to see third-party lab testing or a Certificate of Analysis (COA) of the CBD products you plan to invest in, purchase or use. Companies concerned with quality and safety will include a QR code on products that provide this full documentation, which some states are now beginning to require. If any company cannot provide this information, it’s likely best to avoid doing business with it.

In conclusion, to be certain you’re dealing with a reputable company, follow this checklist:

• The company openly discusses how and where it sources its product(s).

• Ask to see licensing documentation for their manufacturing facility.

• Ask to see testing reports from finished products.

• Ask to see GMP compliance documentation. A full certification document with the company’s name and address should be available. And a GMP audit should never be provided as proof of GMP compliance.

Understanding how hemp is grown, where it’s grown and how it’s processed into a quality product is the surest way consumers, investors and businesses can feel safe and secure in their decisions.

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