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Research Letter
November 7, 2017

Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia
  • 2Veterans Affairs San Diego Health Care System, San Diego, California
  • 3RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
  • 4Americans for Safe Access, Washington DC
  • 5Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, California
  • 6Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

There is growing consumer demand for cannabidiol (CBD), a constituent of the cannabis plant, due to its purported medicinal benefits for myriad health conditions.1 Viscous plant-derived extracts, suspended in oil, alcohol (tincture), or vaporization liquid, represent most of the retail market for CBD. Discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws have resulted in inadequate regulation and oversight, leading to inaccurate labeling of some products.2 To maximize sampling and ensure representativeness of available products, we examined the label accuracy of CBD products sold online, including identification of present but unlabeled cannabinoids.

Internet searches (keywords: CBD, cannabidiol, oil, tincture, vape) were performed between September 12, 2016, and October 15, 2016, to identify CBD products available for online retail purchase that included CBD content on packaging. Products with identical formulation as another product under the same brand were excluded. All unique CBD extracts that met these criteria were purchased. Products were stored according to packaging instructions, or if none were provided, in a cool, dry space. Within 2 weeks of receipt, product labels were replaced with blinded study identifiers and sent to the laboratories at Botanacor Services for analysis of cannabinoid content (cannabidiol, cannabidiolic acid, cannabigerol, cannabinol, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabibolic acid [THC]) using high-performance liquid chromatography (in triplicate; lower limit of quantification, ≤0.3170% wt/wt). A 10-point method validation procedure was used to determine the appropriate sample preparation and analytical method. Triplicate test results were averaged and reported by product weight. Data were analyzed using SPSS Statistics (IBM), version 23, with descriptive analyses and a 2-tailed χ2 (α <.05). Consistent with other herbal products in the US Pharmacopeia and emerging standards from medicinal cannabis industry leaders, a ±10% allowable variance was used for product labeling (ie, accurately labeled = 90%-110% labeled value, underlabeled >110% labeled value, and overlabeled <90% labeled value).