Currently, Hemp CBD brands are not required to test their products for potency or harmful chemicals, which means consumers genuinely have no idea if the CBD product they are consuming is safe or has the labeled amount of CBD. Thankfully for all of us, some brands care about their product and are proactive in testing it.
MJ Lifestyle is committed to only partnering with brands and companies that ensures a quality product by third-party testing pre and post-formulation. For the brands taking the responsible route, each item should have a Certificate of Analysis (COA) associated with the product. It should be easy to find on their website; if it isn’t, the company will be happy to provide it. So MJ connected with two of our favorite in the industry to answer those burning questions about reading a COA:
Cultivation & Ingestibles by Brittany Carbone, Founder of Tonic, Tricolla Farms, and Bardo
Topicals by April Cole Worley, Founder of Mender
How is hemp cultivated?
Brittany: Craft cultivation matters! Many large hemp farms (which fuel a lot of the extensive extraction facilities that many brands source from) take a much more industrial approach to cultivation. They use mechanized harvesting methods like cutting down the plants in the field with a combine that feeds directly into a mulcher that grinds up the fresh plants on the spot. This process means they are mulching stems and leaves along with the flower and profoundly diminishing (almost to 0) any minor cannabinoid and terpene content of the plant.
Craft cultivation, done by hand with great care taken towards retaining the full profile of the plant’s therapeutic compounds, results in high-quality flower extractions that are much more efficient and pure. More efficient extractions mean greater sustainability since the overall CBD% will remain higher—for example, 100 pounds of craft cultivated flower can yield the same amount of final product as 200 pounds of the mulched up whole plant that industrialized grows produce.
What is batch testing?
Brittany: Batch testing ensures that the exact amount of CBD advertised on the product is the amount in it.
What kind of brands should you look for?
Brittany: Look for brands that are passionate about what they do and take great pride in the products they offer. Of course, social responsibility is always a plus!
April: Be sure to buy from brands that are open to answering questions, and are transparent about ingredients. Purchase from women if possible!
Which type of CBD is best?
Brittany (pictured above with her husband on their farm): Full-spectrum extracts contain the full range of cannabinoids and phytonutrients found in the plant and are arguably the best, most effective CBD option. Broad Spectrum is essentially a full spectrum extract with all of the THC removed. Isolate is just the CBD molecule.
Are there ingredients in the product that will potentially cancel out the benefits you are trying to derive from the CBD?
Brittany: Gummies, I’m looking at you! Some brands get it right and make them as responsibly as possible, but a lot of them out there are loaded with sugar and/or preservatives that cause more inflammation than that dose of CBD could ever relieve.
April: Whipped white lotions that contain ingredients that could potentially cause inflammation.
How to read a Certificate of Analysis (COA)
Brittany: If you are reading a batch report, then the CBD potency listed should match what it says on your bottle—Keep in mind that most labs have a 5-10% margin of error when it comes to their reporting. Full-spectrum products should have some levels of the minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and CBC as well as THC levels that exist below .3%
ND means Non-Detectable / L
LOQ means Limit of Quantification—this number will be the lowest concentration the test can reasonably detect. This number could mean that there are trace amounts of certain cannabinoids or compounds present, but just not enough for the test to pick up on it.
For topicals—If you are looking to decipher between distillate and isolate, you will see on the product COA from the manufacturer that CBD is not the only cannabinoid present. A product with an isolate will only have CBD present.
How do you know if a testing company is legitimate?
Brittany: Ensure that the brand’s name is visible on the lab report, but even more importantly, make sure the lab’s name and information are listed. Look for ISO/IEC accreditations. Listed margins of error and established benchmarks such as LOQ. There should be the signature of the actual technician that ran the test signed at the bottom of the document.Unfortunately, forging COAs is a thing, so if you have your suspicions, you should be able to contact the lab itself to receive their copy of the report.
What toxic elements should you look for?
Brittany: In flower and extracts, look for pesticides, microbial growth, and heavy metals.
Even if the source material (flower) of the extract tested ND or came in at passing levels, anything that is present in that raw material is going to get concentrated like crazy in the extract (the same way 15% CBD flower turns into a 70% CBD extract), so those heavy metal and pesticide readings are subject to change.
Residual solvents!!!!—This is an important one. Make sure all ethanol has been recovered properly—even in CO2 extracts, ethanol is introduced during the winterization process and must be properly recovered through the use of rotary evaporators and/or short path distillation systems. For isolates—PENTANE!! Pentane is the hydrocarbon used to create isolate products and is often left behind to varying degrees, so make sure they responsibly remove that pentane to an ND level.
How do you keep products safe?
April: Our job as a manufacturer of premium CBD Bodycare is to be the first gatekeeper for purity. We are looking very closely at the Certificate of Analysis (COA) from our CBD vendor—are there pesticides, microbial impurities, residual solvents, or any metal contamination? If no, we formulate our products and then use our lab to run cannabinoid (CBD, THC, CBC, etc.) potency testing. We also hold COAs on all extracts, including vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, pumpkin seed extract, and willow bark extract.
We have also run terpene profiles on all our products twice to capture the full potential of all of the botanicals we use, not just cannabis. For example, we use capsicum in our Pain Salve with a high beta-caryophyllene profile (an anti-inflammatory terpene)—and we like to know that because we are not only relying on our CBD to deliver results.
To view Mender's product COAs and testing results, click here.