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Which CBD Products Deserve Our Trust?

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its blessing to “Epidiolex,” a purified CBD pharmaceutical, for treating severe pediatric epilepsy. Six months later, Congress passed the Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation of hemp for many uses, including the production of biomass for CBD oil extraction. The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as cannabis with 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or less.

In theory, these momentous developments should make it easier to access safe and effective CBD products. So far, however, the FDA has refused to regulate nonpharmaceutical, hemp-derived CBD.

Federal policy continues to privilege CBD isolates while discriminating against artisanal, full spectrum, CBD-rich products that may be more effective than single-molecule pharmaceuticals. Project CBD favors policies that afford wide and easy access to high-quality, lab-verified, artisanal CBD-rich products, in addition to expensive pharmaceutical options.

Project CBD encourages consumers to seek out products made from the unfertilized female flower tops of high-resin CBD-rich cannabis, which is much better suited for medicinal oil extraction than low-resin fiber hemp or industrial hemp grown for seed oil and protein.

But the debate over sourcing cannabidiol from “marihuana” (any cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC) rather than hemp is already moot, as most high CBD hemp – or “hemp wink wink,” as we like to say at Project CBD – actually gets 90 percent of its genetics from high resin marijuana, not low resin hemp, according to a 2021 genomics study by the University of Minnesota and Sunrise Genetics. If grown, extracted, and processed well, such plants qualify as decent starter material for producing CBD-rich oil formulations.

But choosing among the many unregulated CBD brands – which “typically have less manufacturing oversight than kitty litter,” as one industry insider put it – can be problematic.

Many hemp-derived CBD products are mislabeled. To cite one of several examples, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that 69% of 85 products surveyed had an incorrect amount of CBD and/or THC on the product label.

Another survey found significant discrepancies among some of the leading hemp-derived CBD brands that falsely claim full-spectrum CBD-rich oil is in their products, while lab tests of several samples revealed only one cannabinoid – CBD – was present, indicating that these products were made with a CBD isolate rather than a more efficacious whole plant CBD-rich extract.

Another problem: some overly processed hemp-derived CBD products are tainted with toxic solvent residues, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and other contaminants.

Shopping Tips for Buying CBD Online

Below are some general tips that we recommend keeping in mind when shopping for CBD products on the Internet. If you’re in the process of comparing CBD brands to try, these shopping tips can get you pointed in the right direction.

Choose Products from States with Clear Regulations

Consumer Reports suggests that you look for CBD products made by companies in states that have legalized recreational and medical cannabis use. These states tend to have stricter standards for CBD product quality and safety.

Go for American-Grown Hemp

If you live in a “CBD-only” state, opt for CBD products made with American-grown hemp from states like Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, or Tennessee. Domestic sources often adhere to higher quality and safety standards compared to foreign ones.

Prioritize Sustainable CBD

Whenever possible, seek out CBD-rich products derived from high-resin cannabis grown sustainably according to certified regenerative organic standards. This ensures both environmental and product quality sustainability.

Choose Full Spectrum CBD

Select “full spectrum” CBD-rich oil extracts over isolates, distillates, or products labeled “pure CBD” or “no THC.” Full spectrum options contain multiple cannabis compounds, including a small amount of THC, which can enhance the therapeutic benefits through the entourage effect.

Consider Broad Spectrum for THC Concerns

If THC is completely illegal in your state or drug testing is an issue, opt for “broad spectrum” CBD oil products. These include other beneficial cannabis components but zero THC.

Check the CBD and THC Per Serving

When shopping, look for product labels that indicate the amount of CBD and THC per serving, not just the total cannabinoid content for the entire bottle. This helps you accurately gauge dosage.

Be Cautious of Health Claims

Beware of CBD companies that make explicit health claims about their products. Such claims are not allowed by the FDA, and reputable companies focus on providing information about potential benefits without making medical promises.

Verify the Certificate of Analysis (COA)

Always check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) for CBD products. This document confirms that a product has undergone independent lab testing for quality and purity. It should include results for CBD, THC, and contaminants.

Avoid Harmful Vape Cartridge Ingredients

If you’re considering CBD oil vape cartridges, steer clear of those containing toxic thinning agents like propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, as well as harmful thickening agents like Vitamin E acetate and artificial flavor additives.

Stay Away from Low-Quality CBD Edibles

Avoid poor-quality CBD-infused gummies and drops that use corn syrup and artificial colors as ingredients. High-quality CBD edibles prioritize natural and healthy components.

Be Wary of Intoxicating Hemp Products

Exercise caution with “CBD” companies that sell megadose intoxicating hemp products and unregulated synthetic cannabinoids. Stick to companies that adhere to safe and legal CBD practices.

Watch Out for Multilevel Marketing

Beware of multilevel marketing schemes and companies that push for recurring purchases immediately. Reputable CBD companies prioritize transparency and quality over aggressive marketing tactics.

Understand CBD Sources

Be cautious of brands that claim their CBD is derived from the seed and stalk of the hemp plant. CBD is not present in hempseed, and only minimal amounts are found in the stalk. Ensure your CBD product is sourced correctly.

Reach Out to CBD Brands Directly

Don’t hesitate to reach out to CBD companies directly and ask questions about their products, sourcing, and manufacturing processes. If you can’t easily contact them, consider exploring alternatives with better customer support.

How Do We Vet CBD Brands?

The Project CBD Marketplace is a platform for high-quality brands and stores that support our work. We screen our partners carefully, using several flexible criteria — with an emphasis on safety and transparency — to evaluate their organizations and products. 

Here are some of the factors that we consider when evaluating CBD companies:


  • Ethics and culture, diversity and inclusion, social responsibility 
  • Truthfulness and transparency
  • Availability/accessibility of information
  • Educational focus
  • Emphasis on wellness


  • Sources of CBD
  • Focus on whole plant, full-spectrum products
  • Methods of production 
  • 3rd-party testing by batch
  • Healthful, naturally-derived ingredients

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