Fake CBD? How to Spot a Fraud
Fake CBD oil is a real problem in America today. Due to a lack of regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, it seems like there are two fake CBD products made by con artists for every genuine CBD company doing things the right way. Even though CBD is legal,1 an unregulated market is making life difficult for CBD consumers looking for the highest quality products.
Why? Because scam retailers take advantage of a lack of consumer knowledge and the regulatory grey area caused by the FDA to peddle snake oil products to unsuspecting customers. These products could potentially be harmful and cause unwanted effects, so it's important to know what you are getting when it comes to CBD. This is your guide to help you know how to spot fake CBD oil.
Fake CBD in the News
Leaders in the CBD industry have been warning of fake CBD for years. In 2017, more than 50 people in Utah went to the hospital for consuming fake CBD made from synthetic cannabinoids.2 It happened again in North Carolina in 2018.
In 2020, some CBD companies are advertising that their CBD oil can prevent or cure the COVID-19 coronavirus. Do not believe these dangerous claims. If you see a CBD brand advertising itself as a COVID-19 defense or anti-viral agent, report them to the FDA.
Counterfeit CBD Oil
Fake CBD oil made from synthetic cannabinoids can be poisonous, and fraudulent medical claims that CBD oil can cure COVID-19 are just as dangerous. But even more frightening, counterfeiters are ripping off the packaging of a legitimate CBD product in order to fool unsuspecting consumers into buying fake CBD oil.
Cornbread Hemp knows this problem first-hand. An international crime ring targeted Cornbread Hemp for counterfeiting in 2019. We discovered it in August, when an eagle-eyed Englishman contacted us via email. He purchased a package of capsules bearing the Cornbread Hemp logo at a health food store in the UK. But it was fake; Cornbread Hemp doesn’t ship products to the UK.
When unscrupulous CBD manufacturers sell counterfeit CBD, it's even worse offense than if they were selling fake CBD. A counterfeit job preys on the trust that a real CBD oil brand creates with its customers. The counterfeiter betrays that trust with fake CBD oil, possibly containing the sort of synthetic cannabinoids that send people the hospital.
What are CBD companies doing to protect their customers from counterfeit CBD? Well, according to our research, not enough.
Fake CBD Oil Warning Signs
Fake CBD can be dangerous and has the potential to cause negative effects. We have compiled this list of warning signs to help consumers spot fake CBD. This will help consumers understand the tricks that some companies play in their labeling and marketing tactics. If you spot any of these issues, beware of that product.
High Dosage Numbers
CBD dosage can be tricky. If a CBD label says the product contains “3,000 mg” or even 12,000 mg or 30,000 mg — absolutely outrageous amounts compared to reputable CBD brands that rarely exceed 2,000 mg per one-ounce bottle. Most honest CBD companies offer products that are 300 to 1,500 mg per bottle.
So, you need to look very carefully at the listing. That mg level might be the dosage of hemp seed oil, not CBD content.
Hemp Seed Oil
There’s nothing wrong with hemp seed oil. It’s not poisonous like synthetic cannabinoids can be. But some companies misrepresent hemp seed oil as CBD in a classic switcheroo. Hemp seed oil products have the medicinal value of olive oil.
Hemp seed oil is good for you, but not medicinal. It is simply the oil of pressed hemp seeds. By contrast, CBD comes only from the seedless female flower of the hemp plant, or the “bud.”3 Hemp seeds, and therefore hemp seed oil, do not contain CBD. So they won’t be of any assistance in helping you achieve higher levels of wellness.
Cornbread Hemp makes a point to use only hemp flowers in their extract. This is because the leaves and stems do not have much CBD content and makes the end product taste grassy and bitter. The most potent CBD oils will be made from full spectrum hemp flower extract, not from the seeds or from leaves and stems.
Fake Full Spectrum
Another thing to watch for is CBD brands that advertise themselves as “full spectrum” and “THC free” at the same time. This is simply contradictory. The accurate definition of “full spectrum” is CBD that contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC.4 Therefore, it’s impossible for CBD to be “full spectrum” and “THC free.”
Another variation of this is “broad spectrum,” which means hemp extract distilled until the THC is undetectable,5 which means above 80% purity. At Cornbread Hemp, we think “broad spectrum” is less effective than “full spectrum.”6 But at least a brand that describes its hemp oil as “broad spectrum” is being honest, unlike a brand that calls itself “full spectrum” and “THC free.”
Clear Bottles vs Amber
Any CBD company that puts its CBD oil in a clear bottle should not be trusted. CBD is light sensitive and can break down when exposed to ultraviolet light.7 Any educated CBD manufacturer knows that CBD oil must be packaged in dark amber bottles to prevent UV deterioration and maintain potency.
Therefore, any brand that puts their cannabis products in a clear bottle is more concerned with surface details like package design than the effectiveness of their CBD products. Avoid clear CBD oils or CBD products bottled in clear glass, it is indicative of a low quality product.
Extravagant Medical Claims
There are very strict federal laws in place to prevent supplements from making false medical claims on their packaging or in their marketing. Don’t trust any CBD brand that claims it can cure or treat anything specific. Any brand willing to make those sorts of outlandish claims on their CBD products does not deserve your trust.
Fake CBD on Amazon
Another easy short-hand tip to remember is this: don’t buy CBD on Amazon. Amazon is filled with scam retailers selling fake CBD. Here’s why:
Amazon does not allow anything labeled “CBD” on its marketplace. But, Amazon does allow hemp products.8 To take advantage of the Amazon ban on CBD, untrustworthy companies create fake hemp extract products that play within these Amazon rules.
Inflated dosage numbers, hemp seed oil, fake full spectrum, and clear bottles are all fake CBD tactics that can be found on products for sale on Amazon. When looking for trustworthy CBD products, it's best to avoid Amazon altogether.
Another dangerous form of fake CBD is cannabis extract with higher levels of THC than allowed by law. If you aren't researching your CBD product, you may end up with more THC than you were wanting to take.
How to Tell Good CBD from Fake CBD
Now that you have increased your CBD consumer knowledge, you can identify fake CBD oil. So here is the next steps to identifying quality, trustworthy CBD oil companies. If a CBD brand is worthy of your business, it will conduct itself in the following ways:
American Sourced Hemp
As much as 70 percent of the CBD sold in America today comes from hemp cannabis plants grown in China.9 This is a problem because hemp plants are amazing bio-accumulators, which means it soaks up the chemicals in the soil at a remarkable rate.10
China does not have strong environmental policies or farm regulations that would prevent hemp contamination. Other CBD brands source their hemp from Europe. Europe is a better source for clean hemp plant material than China, but it does nothing to support American hemp farmers.
Cornbread Hemp sources their hemp plant materials for extract from the heartland of the USA, the rolling hills of Kentucky. We support local businesses in our area, and we source our entire CBD line from organic Kentucky grown hemp for optimum safety and quality control.
Third-Party Lab Tests
All reputable CBD cannabidiol companies conduct rigorous third-party lab tests. Many CBD oil companies only test for CBD content and THC content to ensure compliance to federal limits and state laws. That simple test neglects your safety by not testing for potential contamination with third party verification.
No matter the reason someone is taking hemp derived CBD products, it’s critical that their product remain free of harmful substances.
A lab test report, or certificate of analysis (COA) for any CBD brand should show results for cannabinoids potency, as well as safety tests for pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, bacteria, mold, and fungus.
Make sure your CBD brand conducts third-party testing of their hemp derived products. These lab test results should be easy to find on any CBD company’s website. They should also have an article walking you through how to read a CBD certificate of analysis.
Cornbread Hemp always tests every product with Kaycha Labs to ensure quality, legality, and safety. But is third-party lab testing good enough to stop fake CBD oils? Not any more.
QR Codes Are a Must
The next step is the QR code. A QR code is the new UPC-type square code that your smartphone can read. With an iPhone, you don’t even need a special app. Just point your camera at the QR code, and it will automatically load a webpage linked to that code.
In the case of CBD oil companies, this allows consumers to check lab reports of of CBD products, simply by scanning the QR code with their smartphone. QR codes are easy to produce. CBD oil companies that don’t offer QR codes might be trying to hide something. Some CBD companies only test for THC potency to assure compliance to federal law. They don’t test for heavy metals, solvents, pesticides or other contaminants.
Even if you’re not in the habit of reading a QR code with your smart phone’s camera, QR codes should give you peace of mind. CBD oil or CBD isolate with a QR code is more trustworthy than ones without.
At Cornbread Hemp, we take safety and security one step further. It’s not enough to provide lab reports and QR codes. To protect our customers against counterfeiters, we use authenticity tags from CannVerify.
CannVerify offers a multi-step process to ensure a product is not counterfeit. Holograms look great, but they themselves can also be counterfeited. That’s why CannVerify developed this system.
That may sound complicated, but it’s a small price to pay to keep our consumers safe from counterfeiters trying to sell fake CBD products under our good name.
USDA Certified Organic
The unfortunate truth is that despite the fact that there are many genuine CBD brands out there trying to do the right thing, there’s many more fake CBD brands just trying to rip people off with low quality or altogether fake products.
The only sure-fire way to know for sure that your CBD product is free of contamination is by looking for the USDA certified organic seal. The USDA organic seal guarantees that every product bearing it is free of any contamination that could cause problems.11
How to Spot Genuine CBD
Keep in mind that when it comes to shopping for CBD oils, you may want to avoid convenience stores and smoke shops. Health food stores or natural supplement retailers are more versed when it comes to vetting products for customer safety, and are usually able to spot fake CBD and keep it off their shelves. You identify fake CBD products yourself by avoiding products that:
- claim inflated dosage numbers
- are made with hemp seed oil instead of CBD hemp extract
- falsely claim themselves to be “full spectrum” and “THC free” at the same time
- make any medical claims
- come in a clear bottle
- are sold on Amazon or in disreputable retailers
To make sure you get genuine full spectrum hemp extract CBD products look for a CBD product with :
- third-party lab tests and QR codes to access them
- anti-counterfeiting holograms for authenticity
- uses an organic carrier oil like MCT coconut oil (MCT coconut oil increases CBD bioavailability)
- USDA certified organic seal for guaranteed safety
Which brands meet all this criteria for the best quality CBD? Only one: Cornbread Hemp. You now know how to spot fake CBD products. And more importantly, you know how to spot genuine CBD, and get the most from your supplement regimen.
About the Author
Jim Higdon, Co-founder
a native of Lebanon, Kentucky. He holds degrees from Centre College, Brown University, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jim published Cornbread Mafia in 2012, full author bio here.
What should I look for in a genuine CBD product?
Among other things, look for a CBD product with: third-party lab tests and QR codes to access them; anti-counterfeiting holograms for authenticity; USDA certified organic seal for guaranteed safety.
Does hempseed oil contain CBD?
Hemp seed oil is good for you, but not medicinal. It is simply the oil of pressed hemp seeds. Hemp seeds, and therefore hemp seed oil, do not contain CBD.
Is there such a thing as full spectrum, THC free CBD?
No, CBD cannot be “full spectrum” and “THC free” at the same time. This is simply contradictory. The accurate definition of “full spectrum” is CBD that contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC.
1. Hudak, J., 2018. The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization And The Status Of CBD: An Explainer. [online] Brookings. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/ Accessed August 04, 2020. 2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence
2. Horth RZ, Crouch B, Horowitz BZ, et al. Notes from the Field: Acute Poisonings from a Synthetic Cannabinoid Sold as Cannabidiol — Utah, 2017–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:587–588. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6720a5external icon. Refer to table (Characteristics of suspected or confirmed cases of poisoning associated with counterfeit cannabidiol products (N = 52) — Utah, 2017–2018)
3. Phys.org. 2018. Favoring Female Flowers In Hemp Horticulture. [online] Available at: https://phys.org/news/2018-12-favoring-female-hemp-horticulture.html Accessed August 04, 2020. 7th paragraph, 1st sentence
4. Jones, I., 2020. Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extracts VS CBD Isolate | Fundación CANNA: Scientific Studies And Cannabis Testing. [online] Fundacion-canna.es. Available at: https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/full-spectrum-cannabis-extracts-vs-cbd-isolate Accessed August 04, 2020. 3rd paragraph, 4th sentence and 4th paragraph, 1st sentence
5. Jones, I., 2020. Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extracts VS CBD Isolate | Fundación CANNA: Scientific Studies And Cannabis Testing. [online] Fundacion-canna.es. Available at: https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/full-spectrum-cannabis-extracts-vs-cbd-isolate Accessed August 04, 2020. 4th paragraph, 1st sentence
6. Jones, I., 2020. Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extracts VS CBD Isolate | Fundación CANNA: Scientific Studies And Cannabis Testing. [online] Fundacion-canna.es. Available at: https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/full-spectrum-cannabis-extracts-vs-cbd-isolate Accessed August 04, 2020. 5th paragraph, 1st sentence
7. How to Take Care of Your CBD Hemp Oil Products - ECHO. https://echoconnection.org/take-care-cbd-hemp-oil-products/. Accessed August 4, 2020. Under ‘Store Your CBD Oil Away from Light and Heat’ section, 1st paragraph, 1st sentence
8. Tell Amazon.com to Stop Selling Fake CBD!. https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/tell-amazoncom-stop-selling-fake-cbd. Accessed August 4, 2020. 1st paragraph, 3rd and 4th sentences
9. Industrial Hemp Production. https://extension.psu.edu/industrial-hemp-production. Accessed August 04, 2020. Under ‘industrial hemp uses and products’ section, 2nd paragraph, 1st sentence
10. Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification: Problems!. https://cimioutdoored.org/bioaccumulation-and-biomagnification-increasingly-concentrated-problems/. Accessed August 04, 2020. 1st paragraph, 2nd sentence
11. Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means | USDA. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means. Accessed August 04, 2020. 3rd paragraph, 1st and 2nd sentence
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