False Dosage Labels on 96% of Tested Amazon Hemp Products, Many With No Hemp or CBD

False Dosage Labels on 96% of Tested Amazon Hemp Products, Many With No Hemp or CBD

In the midst of blossoming cannabis and CBD reform throughout the West, hemp-derived cannabinoid products are increasingly taking center stage as legislators continue to raise red flags surrounding the lack of regulation and intoxicating potential of these products.

Just in the past several months, a number of states have moved to introduce new policies to limit or ban the sale of psychoactive hemp-derived cannabinoid products, like delta-8 THC. Similarly, many are calling out some of the issues surrounding the regulatory gaps surrounding hemp-derived products in the market.

Among them is CBD Oracle, a consumer research company aiming to improve safety and transparency surrounding cannabis products. 

Most recently, it turned its attention to CBD gummies and other hemp products available for purchase on Amazon.com. While the company notes that Amazon will “tell you confidently” that they do not allow CBD gummies on the platform, CBD Oracle’s new independent analysis on such products begs to differ.

While Amazon doesn’t technically allow CBD products, CBD Oracle suggests that sellers on the site largely get around this obstacle by avoiding the term “CBD” and instead using “hemp” on packaging and in product descriptions. 

Neurogan CEO Jan Brandup said that Amazon’s “hemp products” are not related to actual hemp and rather use the term as a sales tactic.

“It’s alarming how easily consumers are deceived into trusting these products, just because they are sold on a reputable platform like Amazon,” Brandup said. “The best case is they may drain your wallet.”

Sunday Scaries CEO Mike Sill agreed, adding that many of the products on Amazon automatically lack credibility and ultimately quality due to the nature of the platform’s regulations.

“When you search for ‘CBD gummies’ on the platform, no reputable brands populate in your search results,” Sill said. “The reason for this is that credible brands like Sunday Scaries, Charlotte’s Web and cbdMD are not allowed to sell on Amazon without being banned.”

Rather, Sill said these companies engage in “brand burning,” meaning that once they are banned from Amazon, they essentially rebrand with a new name and packaging only to reupload the same products to the site and continue sales.

“Their business model doesn’t include a focus on building a reputable brand and providing the highest quality and safest products to consumers; they are just looking for a quick sale and will do whatever is necessary to stay ‘live’ on Amazon,” Sill said.

So what exactly do Amazon “hemp” products contain?

In an effort to analyze the specific contents of CBD products on Amazon, the company purchased 56 of the most popular hemp products on the site and tested them through InfiniteCAL Labs. Most of the products (80%) were gummies, with eight tinctures, two topical creams and one pack of mints. A majority (89%) also made specific numerical claims regarding dosage.

Around 30% (17 of 56) of the products tested contained CBD, averaging 547 mg per package. However, there was a large variance in CBD quantity between products, with a minimum of 28 mg of CBD and a maximum of 1,582 mg. While CBD Oracle notes that this at least shows Amazon isn’t being totally dishonest about some of these products containing hemp and hemp compounds, it still violates Amazon’s policies and may not be legally compliant.

THC is also banned from Amazon sales, though six (11%) of the tested products contained the cannabinoid with the three containing the most comprised primarily of delta-8 THC. While all of the products were under the THC threshold set by the 2018 Farm Bill, the three delta-8 products “had very high quantities of THC” with 641, 2,507 and 3,028 mg per pack. The product with the highest amount of THC had 76 mg per gummy.

The majority of tested products (35 of 56 products, or 62.5%) contained no cannabinoids at all with more than a third (24 of 56 products, or 43%) containing no hemp.

InfiniteCAL Lab Manager Dr. Erik Paulson explains that hemp is typically infused into consumable products through hemp seeds, which contain no cannabinoids, or through extractable material pulled out of leaves, stems or buds — generally to create cannabinoid-infused products.

“Simply put, if you buy ‘hemp’ from Amazon it is likely that you will actually be buying an expensive jar of gummy bears. Gelatin and sugar, priced at a premium,” CBD Oracle notes in the report.

The report also confirmed that a whopping 96% of tested products did not advertise an accurate dosage.

“If we assume the dosage listing refers to cannabinoids (and not just the total mass of hempseed oil), just two products were confirmed by lab testing to have a dosage within 10% of that listed on their labels,” the report states. “They contained an average of just 25% of the advertised dosage. In most cases, this was less than advertised, but one product primarily containing delta-8 THC had twice the promised dosage.”

In addition, 52% of the products appeared to make an unapproved medical claim, and almost 95% of products did not provide Certificates of Analysis (COA), typically considered an essential for reputable companies selling hemp products.

While the report focused on Amazon products, CBD Oracle notes the prevalence of this trend, as other companies like eBay, Walmart and Alibaba carry similar products — sometimes the exact same options.

Authors note the potential ramifications of selling these products, beyond safety and health concerns, in that it could undermine the broader hemp and cannabis industries and the reform progress so many are actively pushing for.

“Amazon has demonstrated that they don’t understand the difference between hemp seed oil and hemp extract that contains cannabinoids,” said Forge Hemp’s Kelly Lombard. “As long as sellers are vague about a product’s contents, Amazon doesn’t seem to care. This is problematic because U.S. consumers need more information about hemp and CBD, not less. Amazon’s convenience and return policy may entice more consumers to try hemp products, but if their experience is negative, that hurts the industry.”

CBD Oracle also lists some potential solutions to remedy these issues, though they largely fall on Amazon to either adhere to more strict verification and COA guidelines, if not completely remove any products making false claims. They note that customers tend to have limited impact and that individual efforts to combat or report these products may ultimately result in frustration and wasted time. 

Authors also cite that the current model, a blanket ban on CBD encouraging companies to be dishonest and actively work around it, may not be the answer.

“Even establishing a bare minimum requirement for hemp sellers — showing an up-to-date lab report — would be enough to send the snake oil sellers running for the hills,” the report concludes. “Will you be able to pretend that CBD isn’t available on your platform? No. But customers who are buying CBD on your platform — who already exist, like it or not — would be much, much more likely to get safe products that offer what they say on the label.”

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