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Recent Johns Hopkins Medicine Study Analyzes Mislabeled CBD Products

Johns Hopkins Medicine published a July 20 study that found many CBD products contained inaccuracies of THC. Entitled “Cannabinoid Content and Label Accuracy of Hemp-Derived Topical Products Available Online and at National Retail Stores,” the study analyzed 105 topical CBD products—specifically lotions, creams, and patches—collected from “online and brick-and-mortar retail locations” in Baltimore, Maryland between July and August 2020 (but analysis didn’t occur until March through June 2022). This included pharmacies and cosmetic/beauty stores as well as health and wellness shops.

The study’s lead author, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Tory Spindle, Ph.D., explained the objective behind this analysis. “Misleading labels can result in people using poorly regulated and expensive CBD products instead of FDA approved products that are established as safe and effective for a given health condition,” said Spindle.

Results showed that 18% of products had 10% more CBD than what was advertised. 58% had 10% more CBD than the advertised amount, and 24% only contained accurate amounts.

THC was found in 35% of the products, but the average product contained less than 0.3% THC. This is the legal limit for cannabis. Eleven percent of those products were labeled as “THC free,” while 14% said that they contained less than 0.3% THC, and 51% did not mention THC on the labels at all.

Spindle stated that THC could be present in CBD-only products. This is a potential risk for some individuals. “Recent research has shown that people who use CBD products containing even small amounts of THC could potentially test positive for cannabis using a conventional drug test,” Spindle said.

These products made some inaccurate medical claims, and they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Twenty-eight percent made claims about pain or inflammation, 14% made claims regarding cosmetic or beauty, and 47% specifically noted that they were not approved by the FDA, while the other 53% didn’t mention the FDA at all.

The study’s Senior Author, Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., who is also professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained that this stark difference in results requires more research. “The variability in the chemical content and labeling found in our study highlights the need for better regulatory oversight of CBD products to ensure consumer safety,” Vandrey said.

This is not the first study that has addressed the inaccurate claims made about cannabis products. A University of Kentucky study found that only 43 CBD oil products contained a percentage of CBD within the 10% claimed. In partnership with Leafly and the University of Colorado Boulder, cannabis labels had also been found to be inaccurate.

Johns Hopkins University is a long-standing supporter of cannabis research efforts in the last few years. Johns Hopkins University has launched The Johns Hopkins University Cannabis Study Guide in September 2019. Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness ResearchWith the aim of expanding research into psychedelic drugs in order to develop new treatment options for certain psychiatric or behavioral disorders. It teamed up with Realm of Caring and Bloom Medicinals in October 2020 to conduct research on cannabis therapy. The university published an October 2021 study showing that cannabis can be used to treat anxiety and depression. It asked people to volunteer to take part in an alcohol and cannabis research program. The individual could earn up to $2660.