Undisclosed THC threatens CBD market

Study finds even some “THC-Free” products contain THC.

Todd Runestad, Content Director, NaturalProductsInsider.com

August 4, 2022

2 Min Read
Undisclosed THC threatens CBD market

Despite the best efforts of the responsible CBD sector—with QR codes on bottles directing consumers to Certificates of Analysis showing analytical test results of cannabinoid content—all too many products are not meeting label claims.

This is especially true with products proclaiming “THC-Free” status, with a new study showing nearly 1 in 4 such products do actually contain detectable levels of delta-9 THC—the cannabinoid with euphoric effects.

The fear is that unintentional delta-9 THC consumption may lead to positive drug tests.

“Consumers are taking hemp-derived CBD products without understanding the risks of unintentional consumption of delta-9 THC,” wrote the University of Kentucky College of Medicine researchers. “This accidental use of delta-9 THC could have adverse effects on health and safety as well as potential legal consequences (e.g., child custody, impaired driving), as delta-9 THC drug test findings could impact employment, military, and sport eligibility status.”

The researchers purchased 80 hemp CBD products off the shelves of local retailers in central Kentucky, which carried both local and national brands. These were extracted by solvent extraction and quantified by liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) using a validated method.

The analytical findings were compared to the label claims for CBD content.

Of the 80 products tested, 52 of which—65 percent—contained detectable levels of THC.

To be sure, anything other than a CBD isolate will have detectable levels of delta-9 THC. And to that end, the researchers used as a control the pharmaceutical drug, Epidiolex, a 98% pure CBD isolate that nevertheless also contained detectable levels of delta-9 THC, at 0.022 mg/mL.

The delta-9 THC concentration of the other samples ranged from 0.0008 to 2.071 mg/mL.

Of the 80 products tested, 37 contained CBD concentrations that were at least 10% different than the concentration listed on the label—12 products contained less than 90% of the listed CBD quantity, while 25 contained more than 110% of the CBD listed on the label.

This study follows a January report, by CBD market watcher Leaffeport, that tested 221 hemp CBD products and found that only 40% met label claim for stated CBD content.  

“These data suggest that additional regulation is required to ensure label accuracy as nearly half of the products in this study were not properly labeled—that is, not within a 10% margin of error,” wrote the researchers. “The results of this study support the continued need for good manufacturing practices and testing standards for CBD products.”

The lead study author, Shanna Babalonis, serves as a consultant to the Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the world’s largest cannabis companies, based in Ontario, Canada.

About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director, NaturalProductsInsider.com, Natural Products Insider

Todd Runestad has been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. He is content director for NaturalProductsInsider.com and Natural Products Insider digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for NewHope.com, Delicious Living!, and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still covers raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here on LinkedIn.


Todd writes about nutrition science news such as this story on mitochondrial nutrients, innovative ingredients such as this story about 12 trendy new ingredient launches from SupplySide West 2023, and is a judge for the NEXTY awards honoring innovation, integrity and inspiration in natural products including his specialty — dietary supplements. He extensively covered the rise and rise and rise and fall of cannabis hemp CBD. He helps produce in-person events at SupplySide West and SupplySide East trade shows and conferences, including the wildly popular Ingredient Idol game show, as well as Natural Products Expo West and Natural Products Expo East and the NBJ Summit. He was a board member for the Hemp Industries Association.

Education / Past Lives

In previous lives Todd was on the other side of nature from natural products — natural history — as managing editor at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He's sojourned to Burning Man and Mount Everest. He graduated many moons ago from the State University of New York College at Oneonta.


"There is not a colds-and-flu season. There is a vitamin D-deficiency season."

"There is no such thing as inclement weather. Only improper attire."

Link answers question, "When taking magnesium, should you also take vitamin D3 2,000 IU?"

"Cannabis is nature's most nearly perfect plant."

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like