FDA recently issued an advisory regarding the safety of cannabidiol (CBD), one of the compounds found in cannabis plants, alerting consumers that some companies are marketing products containing the compound in ways that the agency says violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but the market for CBD products—and especially edible CBD—is growing rapidly.
Adam Floyd, commercial operations manager for Think20 Labs, an analytical testing company for hemp and cannabis products based in Columbia, Md., notes that the testing market for cannabis edibles isn’t as evolved as CBD oil and flower testing, and he says more needs to be done to rectify this. “One of the major issues with edible testing is massive variance in sample types, e.g., gummy bears, candies, brownies, etc.,” he says. “This makes the actual testing of the products more difficult, as specific methods need to be developed for each type of edible.”
Additionally, Floyd says that concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another compound in cannabis plants, can vary wildly from the stated concentration on packages. “A major public health danger of this issue is people receiving inconsistent doses of THC/CBD. Edibles take longer to take effect so the danger of overconsumption can be more pronounced.”
Sara Rose Kennedy, co-founder of PuraPhy, a Las Vegas-based online publication focused on the hemp and cannabis industry, says methods of testing levels of THC in edibles is constantly evolving through the advances in technology, research, and standardization practices that have come about since the inception of state cannabis legalization, with California being the first state to legalize it in 1996.
The cannabis industry is in an unusual situation, she says. While FDA typically regulates drugs and food in the U.S. that aid in disease or impact the human body, this is not the case for THC and CBD edibles, she says. “Although there have been many advances in lab testing in the cannabis and hemp industry, there are still inconsistencies [in methods among] the different states, and even [among] labs around the country.”
Kennedy says that federal law does not consider any cannabis-infused food product legal at this point in time. However, FDA can intervene when an edible label makes a “health claim,” because it does not approve of any marijuana product. “Otherwise, [FDA has] no rules for quality assurance/control for cannabis edibles, which means they are not able to offer ‘official’ regulations for ingredients, preparation (SOP), or packaging guidelines,” Kennedy adds.
Who Is Regulating?
Currently, the laws concerning edibles are regulated on a state-by-state basis. For example, in Nevada, the state’s board of taxation monitors the production and sales of THC edibles such as gummies, while the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission recently passed its rules for the sale of cannabis edibles in that state. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington require a universal symbol to be affixed to edibles identifying them as cannabis products, but only Colorado and Oregon require that the packaging for edibles bear a Nutrition Facts panel on the label.
Each state sets up its own guidelines and, while there is some uniformity, the gray area comes from cannabis and hemp as ingredients, as regulatory bodies are just starting to understand all the ways products can be infused with cannabis compounds.
Typically, cannabinoid methodologies will remain consistent, but the regulations for allowed concentrations of pesticides, residual solvents, and heavy metals can vary immensely. “Many edibles and cannabis products are sold in dispensaries without proper testing from laboratories and there is limited state enforcement to ensure that proper regulations are adhered to,” Floyd says. “There aren’t a lot of us, so it’s not too hard to find a lab.”