Is Your CBD Safe?

A tiny bright green sprouting hemp plant

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound from the cannabis plant that is generally regarded as being safe and effective. With little known side effects, users of CBD products can experience the healing properties of cannabis while avoiding the negative psychoactive properties of THC, which can be an unwanted side effect for some. Most experts agree that CBD can be taken safely, but with a major caveat— a CBD product is only as safe as how it was produced.

CBD Industry on the Rise

The popularity of CBD products derived from hemp has created unprecedented demand, with the CBD market value soaring to $467 million in 2017, according to the research by Brightfield Group. With the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the CBD market is expected to pull in $16 billion in revenue by 2025. The fast-rising popularity of CBD has resulted in companies trying to quickly cash in, while eschewing careful growing and manufacturing practices in an effort to get products to the market quickly and cheaply.

Compounding the issue of safety, the FDA has not imposed any clear guidelines on CBD, leaving the industry’s safety standards even more ambiguous. This has prompted growers and manufacturers of CBD to largely self-regulate with little to no federal oversight.

In an industry landscape that still looks very much like the Wild, Wild West in many ways, some of the more reputable companies have espoused good manufacturing and growing practices, even going as far to voluntarily post lab reports publicly. But the overwhelming majority of the industry has not been so transparent, leaving a big question mark in terms of consumer safety.

With the lack of regulation, consumers interested in CBD must be willing to do their due-diligence in order to identify safely produced CBD products from reputable companies.

Hemp is a Bioaccumulator

Field of unordered green cannabis plants under a blue sky with white fluffy clouds

Cannabis sativa L., or industrial hemp, the plant from which CBD is derived, is a known bioaccumulator. Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other chemicals within an organism. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism is taking in more of a long-lasting foreign substance than it can excrete, therefore resulting in a built up concentration within the plant.

As a bioaccumulator, hemp is frequently used for phytoremediation, which is the direct use of living green plants for the removal, degradation, and containment of contaminants in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, and groundwater. In the 1990’s hemp was planted near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown site to help absorb radiation and other toxins from the ground and was found to decontaminate the soil at a very high rate, absorbing high amounts of lead, cadmium and nickel.

Because of its tendency to absorb and store contaminants, hemp that is being grown for CBD products should be grown in a controlled environment, free of pesticides, heavy metals, or toxins. The soil should be tested to ensure that no contaminants bioaccumulate in the plant, and then into your body after consumption of CBD.

Why Lab Testing Matters

Gloved hand holding glass vile full of amber colored liquid in a lab setting

Picking a CBD product that has been lab tested by a third party is especially important in determining a safe CBD product. Lab testing done by an independent third party will test for pathogens, pesticides, heavy metals, and for the cannabinoid count, which measures how much CBD and THC are present in the product. Additional tests can be done that outline the terpene profile or if there is any residual solvents in the product, such as ethanol or other alcohols commonly used in extraction methods. The lab tests should be readily available on the company’s website and easy to find.

Natural Pest Control for Safer CBD

As with any other crop, pests pose a vexing issue to hemp growers. Since farmers who grow CBD are not subject to laws concerning pest management, the use of pesticides on cannabis crops is a surprisingly common, yet alarming practice. In 2016, Steep Hill, an independent lab in California, reported that a pesticide called Cyclobutanil, which is considered a lethal chemical, was detected in over 65% of all cannabis samples tested, and over 84% of samples tested had one or more pesticide residues present— a far higher number than the lab had initially expected. CBD products with residual pesticides poses a significant risk to consumer health. Pesticide ingestion has detrimental effects on fertility, pregnancy, and can cause internal organ damage.

Some of the more responsible growers, such as Zenleaf Hemp in San Diego County, California, are turning to non-traditional methods of pest control to ensure their crops stay healthy without the use of toxic chemicals. Zenleaf’s expert growers use natural pest control with a method of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) called biological pest control. Biological pest control is the use of natural enemies such as beneficial predators, parasites, or microbial products to control the unwanted pest population and to keep them from damaging crops. This provides for a sustainable method of pest control that preserves crops, while keeping pesticides out of consumable CBD products for greater public safety. 

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If you’re considering buying a CBD product, be sure to look for third party lab reports that test for the presence and levels of pesticides. Hemp’s ability to bioaccumulate toxins in the soil makes it especially important that it is grown and harvested safely, as those contaminants can end up in you!

We’ve identified 3 companies that source their CBD from Zenleaf Farm and are guaranteed to be pesticide-free:

  1. HempLand USA
  2. Noble Hemp
  3. Lokus 




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