Last edited 06/15/2020
As the CBD market continues to explode, a large variety of hemp-derived CBD products are quickly appearing on retailer shelves and online. Simply reading the product ingredients doesn’t necessarily provide you a full picture about the product’s content or safety for use. Here is where a COA, short for Certificate of Analysis, becomes key.
Why is a COA Important?
While the FDA is currently working on industry standards for products formulated with Cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the hemp plant, these regulations are not yet fully enacted into law. Also, states highly vary in their labelling and testing requirements for such products. Until enough comprehensive laws are fully in effect to protect consumers, there will not be a nationwide consistency in both labelling, safety and product quality.
In an ideal world, when you purchase a hemp-derived CBD product, the product should contain the cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds advertised by the seller and be free of contaminants and toxic substances. The rapid growth of this industry has sadly attracted some unsavoury players that are primarily entering the market for a quick profit and care little for quality or safety. Mislabelled products and dangerous synthetic knockoffs are commonly found online, in retail stores, and even in gas stations!
Indeed, in a study of 84 CBD products sold by 31 companies online in 2017, blind testing found that only about 31 percent of the products contained the amount of CBD listed on the label. Some products also contained higher amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that creates an intoxicating high. This is one reason the COA is important.
What is a COA?
Before a CBD product is made available for sale, a sample of the product’s batch is sent to a third-party accredited laboratory for testing. Once testing is completed, the laboratory issues a COA.
The COA is a lab report that shows the types of testing done on a CBD product. The lab reports breaks down the types of cannabinoids that were tested and how much of each is present. The lab report may also include results of any terpenes contained in the CBD product. The lab report should also include some safety testing that shows that there’s nothing harmful in it so it’s safe to use. For more detail, you can view a sample COA here.
Transparent brands will provide you with access to the lab report for the batch of your CBD product as a way for you to verify the content and that it’s safe to use. Those that don’t, well, buyer beware.
What are Third-Party Accredited Laboratories?
Third-party means that the laboratory is a separate entity from the brand and has no influence on the outcome of lab testing results.
Many states require laboratories wishing to test CBD products to become accredited in order to lawfully test CBD products. Florida is one, among others. Accreditation generally means the testing laboratory is formally recognized by an authoritative governing body of the competence to work in accordance with specified, higher standards that are imposed to receive accreditation for testing CBD products.
How to Find the COA for Your Product
Some brands host their COAs on their own website, like we do here. Others might host them on an accessible third-party website. Look for the batch number displayed on your product to find the COA with the same batch number.
Also, some states, including Florida, require brands to have a QR code on the product that leads to the COA for that product. Using your phone’s camera, scan the QR code. That should take you directly to the COA or to a webpage that hosts the COA. Using your product’s batch number, look for the COA with the same batch number and select it.
If your phone camera doesn’t work, it’s best to download a QR code reader app, which typically works better.
If you cannot locate the COA for your batch number, notify the brand in case the brand is unaware that the COA is not visible or missing. A reputable brand will get back to you and provide you with the missing COA.
Remember, not all CBD products are made the same.
When shopping for a CBD product, make sure you have access to the product’s COA to verify the product’s content and safety for use. If you can’t locate the COA, inquire directly with the brand. If a brand refuses or fails to provide the COA, this should cause you grave pause for concern. In this case, consider shopping from another brand.