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Tips for sourcing cbd oil

How to Shop for High Quality CBD Products: Tips, Reviews, & Where to Buy?

Scientists and entrepreneurs have fueled massive amounts of resources into research on CBD and its health benefits — contributing to the growth of a booming market.

Today, the hemp industry is full of creative companies and innovative products, from oils to edibles to vapes, topicals, and even products for pets. However, this wealth of choice can be confusing for new consumers who have just dipped their toes in the world of cannabinoids.

Before purchasing CBD, you need to consider several factors, such as the type of CBD product, its potency, lab-testing, and the reputation of your vendor.

Those wishing to try CBD products must also be aware that they may interact with certain medications. If that’s the reason you’re hesitating from buying CBD oil, speak with a holistic doctor who is knowledgeable about CBD and cannabis in general.

Today, we’ve prepared a wholesome CBD buyer’s guide to help beginners maneuver in the abundance of different forms of CBD.

Keep reading to find how to buy CBD as a conscious consumer.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying CBD

There’s a lot of misinformation regarding CBD itself, as well as CBD-infused extracts. We’ve simplified the essential data in this CBD buyer’s guide so that you can use a neat cheat sheet on your way to finding the best CBD products for your needs.

But, before we elaborate on the technical stuff, let’s make sure you know what you’ve come here for.

What Is CBD?

CBD is one of over 115 compounds identified as cannabinoids. This class of compounds is unique to cannabis plants, and CBD is typically the second most abundant cannabinoid next to THC.

CBD interacts in various ways with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the major regulatory network responsible for promoting and maintaining homeostasis throughout the body.

As noted by one study, CBD may have the following properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-convulsive
  • Analgesic (pain killing)
  • Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
  • Antipsychotic
  • Sedative

The scientific evidence behind these health benefits is piling up, although research is at various stages depending on the specific effect. However, there’s also a lot of anecdotal evidence from CBD users claiming they have found relief from a range of health conditions.

In a study of CBD users published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the authors found that about 62% of people used CBD to control medical symptoms. The most common conditions mentioned in the study were pain, anxiety, and depression.

Because CBD oil contains many other beneficial compounds, it has a highly versatile therapeutic profile.

Speaking of which, let’s look inside the cannabis plant for a second.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes

As mentioned, the cannabis plant contains over 115 cannabinoids and more than 200 terpenes. Each of these compounds has its own potential health benefits. Cannabinoids usually enhance or modulate the biological activity of CBD, while terpenes are responsible for giving the effects a particular direction.

Although scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism of terpenes, they think that they may also offer some therapeutic properties. However, this mostly depends on their concentration on the product, especially those terpenes found in cannabis.

Cannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically to amplify their positive effects and temper potentially unwanted reactions.

This phenomenon even has a special name in the scientific dictionary.

The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is a mechanism achieved by all cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the cannabis plant. Extracts containing these compounds are believed to be more effective than products based on pure CBD.

One of the real-life examples of the entourage effect is the relationship between CBD and THC. CBD mitigates the psychotropic potential of THC, reducing the risk of anxiety and paranoia, while THC amplifies the anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects of CBD.

Terpenes, on the other hand, can improve the absorption of other cannabinoids, increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and interact with cannabinoid receptors, indirectly enhancing the benefits of cannabinoids.

That’s why most people prefer full-spectrum CBD over other formats — but we’ll get to that later in the article.

Is CBD Safe?

Yes, CBD has a very good safety profile. It has been acknowledged as safe and well-tolerated among humans according to the reviews of the scientific literature. Even doses as high as 1,500 mg administered daily aren’t capable of causing dangerous or life-threatening effects to the user.

That being said, overdoing CBD comes with a few benign side effects, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Changes in appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea (very rare)

CBD can also affect the way your liver metabolizes certain pharmaceutical compounds. CBD is a potent inhibitor of the CYP450 enzyme system, which is a set of enzymes that metabolize the majority of medications. If you’re taking any medication and are worried about potential interactions, consult your physician before buying any CBD products.

Is CBD Right For Me?

Yes, CBD is good for you; it’s actually good for everybody, from a scientific standpoint.

All animals, except for some insects, have an ECS that corresponds with plant-derived cannabinoids. That’s because they act similarly to our naturally produced endocannabinoids.

CBD is the modulator of the ECS, meaning it optimizes its functioning without directly affecting the cannabinoid receptors in your brain — hence the lack of high upon consumption.

Instead, CBD signals the ECS to produce more endocannabinoids; it also inhibits an enzyme that breaks them down, extending their duration in the circulatory system.

With more endocannabinoids circulating in your system, the body can return to homeostasis and remain in that state despite environmental stressors.

On top of that, CBD acts on over 65 molecular pathways, which would explain its wide range of health benefits.

So, long story short, yes, CBD is good for you — in a similar way that vitamin D is good for your health.

Marijuana vs Hemp: Understanding Which CBD Oil Is Appropriate for Me

One of the biggest misconceptions that we’d like to debunk in our CBD buyer’s guide is the idea that it comes exclusively from marijuana. The truth about CBD oil products is that the vast majority of CBD oils are extracted from hemp, although selectively-bred marijuana strains contain high levels of CBD, That’s because marijuana also comes with significant levels of THC, which isn’t acceptable on a federal level.

The only federally legal CBD products are those derived from hemp because hemp contains 0.3% of THC (or less) per dry mass. Such low concentrations are insufficient to induce intoxication, so hemp-derived CBD oil won’t get you high.

CBD products from hemp are easily available without a prescription. You can find them in your local supplement store or search the web for a reputable online vendor.

The Importance of Buying High-Quality CBD Oil

The United States has a very bumpy history with CBD, hemp, and the legal status of cannabis. Many are aware that the founding fathers were hemp enthusiasts and had their own hemp farms.

Despite the full-blown prohibition on cannabis that fired in 1937 upon introducing the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the federal government encouraged farmers to grow hemp during World War II. In 1942, the United States Department of Agriculture released a short film titled “Hemp for Victory,” which was used to encourage American farmers to grow hemp for military purposes.

As the war ended, hemp got banned once again. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 officially outlawed hemp, classifying it as a Schedule I drug — the same category as LSD, heroin, and ecstasy. As a result, companies interested in making CBD products needed to rely on hemp imported from overseas, where growing standards aren’t as controlled as those in the United States.

In 2018, President Trump signed the amended Agricultural Act into law, legalizing hemp all across the board. The plant was removed from the list of controlled substances, which allowed for the sale of hemp and hemp-derived products for commercial purposes.

That’s why domestically grown hemp is the best choice for high-quality CBD oil. Plants grown on American farms are subject to strict regulations set by the United States Department of Agriculture, including limited exposure to pesticides and other synthetic growth boosters.

When looking for the best CBD oils, be sure the hemp comes from domestic farms for superior quality.

5 Factors that Determine the Quality of CBD Oil

Wondering how you can figure the right quality of CBD oil? Here are the top 5 factors to look for in hemp extracts:

Hemp Source

As mentioned earlier, CBD should be sourced from domestically-grown hemp, as these plants are subject to strict quality-control standards set out by the USDA. It’s all the better if the hemp is organic; organic certification means that the plants were cultivated with ZERO pesticides or fertilizers. Avoid mass-produced hemp from China because it may be contaminated with high levels of heavy metals from contaminated soil.

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Extraction Method

There are several extraction methods when it comes to CBD oil. In our buyer’s guide, we highly recommend CO2 extraction. Pressurized carbon dioxide effectively pulls the beneficial compounds from hemp without the need to add extra heat or toxic solvents. Alcohol and olive oil are the two other solvents that can be accepted in commercial CBD products, although they may not be as efficient as CO2 extraction. Make sure you’re not buying products extracted with hydrocarbon solvents, such as propane or butane, as these are difficult to purge and may leave toxic residue at the bottom of the bottle.

Potency

The potency of the CBD product is another essential factor to consider, and it varies depending on individual needs. The potency should clearly display the total amount of CBD in milligrams, as well as the dose of CBD in a single serving. However, it’s important to remember that human research regarding CBD dosages for different health conditions is in its early stage, so any dosage guidelines that you find on the label are just general starting points.

Third-party Testing

This is THE most important factor in this CBD buyer’s guide. The CBD market lacks regulations from the FDA, so there are many fly-by-night companies churning out poorly manufactured products without taking any responsibility for their actions. If you’re looking for legitimate proof of your CBD oil’s quality, make sure it has been tested by a third-party laboratory. Independent laboratories analyze the phytochemical profile of the tested sample, including the potency of CBD and the entire cannabinoid and terpene content. It also looks for common contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, microbial impurities, and solvent residue.

If a product has passed third-party screening, the company should post the certificate of analysis (CoA) on its website. If it doesn’t publish them or refuse to send them on request, it’s an instant red flag.

Brand Reputation

Reputable brands have been around in the business for a few years and they have gathered a lot of positive reviews on third-party websites such as blogs, Reddit, or online rankings. Such companies are a safer choice for beginners than newcomer brands that have little to no press. Still, if you decide to give any company a leap of faith, make sure to do a proper background check on its founders, hemp sourcing, and lab-testing methods.

Does High Price Indicate High-Quality CBD Oil?

There’s a general presumption that higher-priced products are of better quality. With CBD oil, that may not be the case, although price and quality usually correlate with one another.

Be wary of suspiciously inexpensive CBD products. Organic farming, proper extraction, and skilled lab workers require serious investments from the manufacturer, translating into the higher cost of a final product. People don’t sell premium products at a loss because it’s simply counterproductive.

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found serious labeling issues among products that claimed to contain CBD. Most of these products contained significantly higher or lower concentrations of CBD than advertised. Some contained no CBD at all, while others were contaminated with excessive levels of heavy metals and pesticides.

When it comes to buying CBD oil, there are other ways to save money than to look for super-cheap products. Online retailers offer discounts, gift cards, coupon codes, and loyalty programs, where customers can spend less money on their favorite products by purchasing from the same company.

Above all, be sure to check the company’s manufacturing practices and examine their lab reports.

Where to Buy CBD Oil

Now that you understand how to distinguish between poor-quality and high-quality CBD oil, your attention is probably leaning toward “where to buy CBD oil near me”.

Well, CBD oil is widely available online, at dispensaries, and in specialty retail shops.

One of the disadvantages of purchasing CBD oil at a dispensary or specialty store is quality control. Because local vendors are ordering from external companies, they often don’t provide certificates of analysis, so there is no way to verify the product’s purity.

When you buy CBD online directly from companies with information about their manufacturing practices and verified certificates of analysis, your chances of getting high-quality CBD oil significantly increase.

Types of CBD

Okay, so you’ve just found a few reputable vendors but can’t decide on the right product type. What should you do with all those “broad-spectrum,” “full-spectrum,” and “pure CBD” labels? Do they indicate something important?

These names refer to the type of CBD extract and usually describe the ingredients contained in the product.

Let’s take a closer look at them.

Full-spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD is the most complete form of hemp extracts. It contains CBD alongside other adjunctive cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and trace amounts of THC. Full-spectrum products leverage the entourage effect, meaning they can increase the overall efficacy of CBD due to the presence of other beneficial molecules.

Broad-spectrum CBD

When you Broad-spectrum CBD contains the same compounds as full-spectrum extracts, but they are devoid of THC. The intoxicating compound is removed further after initial extraction to ensure that the product is THC-free. Broad-spectrum CBD is a good option for people who want to experience some part of the entourage effect but without taking any amounts of CBD.

CBD Isolate

As the name implies, this product contains pure CBD that has been isolated from other cannabis compounds. Isolates are usually powdered and infused into the same range of products as full-spectrum extracts. They’re odorless, flavorless, and carry the highest concentrations of CBD per serving. However, since there are no other cannabinoids or terpenes, isolates don’t evoke the entourage effect and are thus less desired among users.

Types of CBD Products

Okay, and so the product tree extends! Whether you decided to go with full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or an isolate — there are also different product categories to choose from.

Each of these products has its own pros and cons, so the choice actually boils down to your lifestyle and choosing between convenience, ease of dosing, and higher bioavailability.

Let’s briefly cover common CBD formats.

Oils and Tinctures

CBD oils typically contain a hemp extract suspended in a carrier oil for better absorption. That’s because cannabinoids are fat-soluble. They can be extracted with CO2, alcohol, and glycerin.

CBD oils come in dark glass bottles, with a dropper attached to them. The dropper serves one purpose — to improve dosage accuracy and make application easier.

CBD oils come in different sizes, potencies, flavors, and formulations. Sometimes, the manufacturer can add other supportive ingredients to the formula if they’re looking to target their product at specific health needs.

Capsules

Similar to most health supplements, CBD oil has a capsule form. CBD capsules are taken like any other pills; you just swallow them down with water and wait for about 30–60 minutes until they kick in. You can find CBD capsules either in a traditional pill form or covered in a softgel shell for easier ingestion. Despite the delayed onset, CBD capsules act longer than oils because the CBD is gradually released by the liver into the bloodstream. But then again, the bioavailability (the amount that ends up in your system) is lower than with oils.

Edibles

Edibles use a similar route to capsules, but they’re definitely more fun to take. They come in various formats, although gummies are the most popular for now. CBD edibles like gummies come in different shapes, flavors and potencies; and just like capsules, they offer a fixed dose of CBD in each piece. If you don’t mind taking some extra sugar alongside CBD, gummies are a good alternative to oils and capsules.

Vapes

CBD vapes, such as vape pens or E-liquid, are the fastest and most effective way to deliver CBD to your system. Since the CBD is absorbed through the lungs, it bypasses the digestive tract, ensuring almost instantaneous effects. Usually, vaporized CBD starts acting in a few minutes after inhalation. This form also boasts the highest bioavailability. On the other hand, the effects are relatively short-lived, lasting up to 3 hours, with peak effects after 1.5 hours from taking the last puff. Another problem with most CBD vapes is that they use additives like propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, whose long-term effects haven’t been studied in humans.

Topicals

Topicals are a broad category of CBD products, such as creams, balms, lotions, gels, salves, bath bombs, and more. The purpose of CBD topical products is to provide relief from localized discomfort, such as injury pain, or ease skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or herpes. The absorption rate of topicals depends on the selected fat base as well as other supportive ingredients used in the formula. They usually start working within 15–30 minutes, although for some individuals, it may take even up to 2 hours until they notice the difference in their symptoms.

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Summarizing the CBD Buyer’s Guide

As you can see, finding the right CBD oil if you’ve never had a chance to try CBD products can be challenging — especially if you don’t have the solid basis to start your journey with cannabidiol.

Hopefully, this CBD buyer’s guide has cleared any confusion that you might’ve had before visiting our website. After making thorough research and weeding out scammy vendors, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality products for a reasonable price — whether you decide to buy CBD oil online or look for it somewhere near you.

Just keep in mind to consult your doctor before adding CBD oil to your routine if you take any medications, as CBD is known to interact with enzymes in the liver that metabolize most pharmaceutical substances.

References:

  1. Afrin, F., Chi, M., Eamens, A. L., Duchatel, R. J., Douglas, A. M., Schneider, J., Gedye, C., Woldu, A. S., & Dun, M. D. (2020). Can Hemp Help? Low-THC Cannabis and Non-THC Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Cancer. Cancers, 12(4), 1033. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12041033 (1)
  2. Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 152–161. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0006 (2)
  3. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  4. Russo E. B. (2019). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Frontiers in plant science, 9, 1969. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.01969 (4)
  5. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034 (5)
  6. Evans D. G. (2020). Medical Fraud, Mislabeling, Contamination: All Common in CBD Products. Missouri medicine, 117(5), 394–399. (6)
Nina Julia

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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How to Start a CBD Business

The CBD sector of the cannabis and hemp industry is one of the fastest growing segments of the space. Here’s how you could start a CBD business and get involved.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in hemp and cannabis plants, is becoming increasingly popular as a dietary supplement.
  • The CBD industry is projected to hit $20 billion in sales by 2024.
  • Hemp and hemp CBD are federally legal following the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • The industry still faces challenges in advertising, banking and insurance.

Still relatively new to the mainstream, cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is becoming a household name. The purported therapeutic and health benefits of CBD, one of many compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants, has created a buzz. CBD oil has entered the marketplace in the form of tinctures, infused edibles, topicals and more. The growth of CBD oil products has been so immense, in fact, that industry analyst BDS Analytics predicts the U.S. CBD market will reach $20 billion in sales by 2024.

The potential of the CBD industry has prompted many people to explore how they can launch a CBD business. The industry is not without its challenges, though, especially surrounding the evolving legal landscape, but the opportunity is significant.

If you’re considering getting involved in the CBD industry, you first need to understand more about cannabinoids and the products that utilize them.

What is CBD?

CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids, which are compounds found throughout the cannabis and hemp plants. The most famous cannabinoid is undoubtedly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the intoxication associated with the consumption of cannabis. CBD, however, does not produce an intoxicating effect; instead, it offers potential therapeutic and health benefits, though research into its potential medical applications is ongoing.

CBD products are generally created in several steps. First, the raw material needs to be cultivated and harvested. For example, if you plan on using industrial hemp to create your CBD products, you will either need to cultivate or purchase a large amount of the plant. From there, CBD oil is extracted from the plant using a variety of methods. Again, you can do this yourself or outsource the process to an extraction company. Once you have extracted the CBD oil, it can be sold as a concentrate or used to infuse a variety of products. Some of the most common CBD products on the market today include sublingual tinctures, infused edibles and topicals, like gels or creams.

Hemp CBD vs. cannabis CBD

CBD is found in both cannabis and hemp plants. CBD oil can be extracted from either plant and used to create CBD oil products. However, there is a key difference between hemp CBD oil and CBD products derived from cannabis: THC.

Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, and as such, it is considered legal under federal law to cultivate, harvest and process into finished products. Cannabis, on the other hand, contains more than 0.3% THC (often much higher levels) and remains federally illegal.

Hemp and cannabis are closely related; in fact, industrial hemp is actually Cannabis sativa L. The difference in name is mostly a function of a legal definition, which sets the threshold for THC content. The flowers of a hemp plant contain little to no THC, while the flowers of a cannabis plant (commonly referred to as marijuana) contain much higher levels of THC.

The federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal for interstate commerce, even as dozens of states legalize it for adult use. Industrial hemp, on the other hand, was recently removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, opening the way for its cultivation and harvest in the U.S. for the first time since 1937.

Did you know? The key difference between hemp CBD oil and CBD products derived from cannabis is THC.

Full-spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolate

If you’ve done any research into the CBD market already, you’ve likely encountered the terms “full-spectrum” or “isolate.” Depending on the extraction methods used, the CBD oil obtained from the plant might contain other cannabinoids and compounds found in the source plant. This is what is known as full-spectrum CBD. Full-spectrum CBD not only contains other cannabinoids found in the source material, but compounds known as terpenes, which are responsible for creating the flavor profile, aroma and specific effects of the plant.

CBD isolate, as the name suggests, is a concentrate that only contains CBD and no other cannabinoids or terpenes. While the purity of CBD isolate might sound desirable, there is some evidence to suggest that full-spectrum CBD promotes an “entourage effect;” that is, the compounds in a full-spectrum hemp extract work together to promote more significant effects. The entourage effect is still under investigation by researchers studying CBD and other cannabinoids.

The CBD industry is projected to grow immensely

Industry analyst BDS Analytics predicts the U.S. CBD market will reach $20 billion in sales by 2024. This would be a major surge from $1.9 billion in 2018 (a 49% annual growth rate).

Needless to say, society is growing more open-minded and accepting of CBD. Many individuals are turning to it for pain relief, stress management, better sleep, and more; and many gas stations, restaurants, and local CVS stores now sell it.

Some trends the CBD market might experience in 2020 are increased potency of products, more brick-and-mortar CBD shops, more pharmaceutical CBD products, and more access to products online through CBD websites and e-commerce shops. In fact, CBD online sales currently account for 60% of the sales channels.

The CBD industry is introducing new products all the time. If you’re looking to start a CBD business, you will have a wide range of product types to consider selling. Here are the most popular types of CBD on the market right now:

  • Sublingual tinctures: A sublingual tincture is CBD oil that generally comes in a small bottle with a dropper. Sublingual products are ingested by placing them under your tongue and allowing the oil to absorb.
  • CBD edibles: CBD edibles are a rapidly growing sector of the industry, including baked goods, candies and foods. CBD edibles have faced significant regulatory scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but remain as commonly found products.
  • Vape concentrates: Vaporizer concentrates, such as CBD oils and waxes, are another common product. These can be used with an electronic device to vaporize and inhale the CBD product.
  • CBD topicals: CBD topicals include gels, creams and sprays for aches and pains. These products are placed directly on the skin to target a localized region of the body.
  • Capsules and pills: Many patients who experience seizures or digestive issues take CBD capsules or pills to treat their conditions.
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Additionally, CBD isn’t just for humans. Animals also experience calming effects when given small doses, and many businesses offer CBD products for pets, like dogs or cats.

How to start a CBD business

There are countless unique opportunities for new businesses to sell CBD. Starting a CBD business includes all the hard work and effort of launching any other company in addition to the uncertainty of a shifting regulatory landscape (and all the issues that accompany it). However, in a fledgling industry projected to undergo explosive growth, the heavy lifting today might be well worth it tomorrow.

Cory Slovik, owner of Core Roots CBD, started his company after experiencing firsthand what he said were the healing properties of the cannabinoid.

“I used to be a pro snowboarder … and I was always sore, my muscles were constantly in agonizing pain. I tried CBD, and it helped me tremendously,” said Slovik. “Then, years later, cannabis … started coming to the forefront, and there was research and data backing up everything I felt on the mountain.”

Slovik soon launched Core Roots CBD, seeing a business opportunity and a way to help other people treat their pain. He said starting a CBD company is like any other business, plus a bunch of added steps.

“It’s like any other business; there are steps and procedures you need to go through like getting insurance and writing a business plan,” Slovik said. “But in this space, you have got to double- and triple-check everything, know your market and jump through regulatory hoops.”

[If you’re looking for more details on how to start a business and all the steps you need to take, see our step-by-step guide to get started.]

Understand your legal obligations

Just because the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized industrial hemp and, by extension, hemp extract, like CBD oils, doesn’t mean there aren’t significant regulatory considerations surrounding the industrial hemp industry.

The 2018 Farm Bill essentially removed CBD from the federal Controlled Substances Act and the oversight of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Instead, it placed governance of the hemp industry and CBD oil in the hands of the FDA.

Currently, the FDA is still devising regulations, leaving the CBD industry in a sort of gray area. So far, the federal agency has signaled that marketing CBD as having health benefits will not be tolerated. It has also initiated a crackdown against CBD-infused foods and beverages in some instances.

Further complicating the regulatory landscape is the 2017 approval of the CBD-based pharmaceutical Epidolex, an epilepsy medication that was approved by the FDA. Since CBD is a main ingredient in an FDA-approved drug, using it in food products without FDA approval could be illegal. Clearer guidance is sorely needed for CBD businesses to operate in compliance with federal regulations.

“I think the FDA does have to step in, and they will,” said Slovik. “I expect a lot of changes to labels; we’re seeing a lot of businesses out there now using the term ‘hemp extract’ instead of CBD, or they’re not thinking of health benefits so much. Many companies are doing different things, but no one really knows [what the regulations will be] until it happens.”

Understanding your legal obligations and playing it safe is key in a highly scrutinized industry. While CBD businesses everywhere await clearer regulatory guidance, it is important not to craft your marketing strategy around the supposed benefits of CBD. It’s also important to stay apprised of new developments as the FDA moves forward on crafting new regulations.

Market and sell your products

Marketing and selling CBD products is tricky. While the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill liberalized the industry a little bit (CVS and Walgreen’s now carry CBD products, for example), it is still difficult to sell CBD products on major online platforms like Amazon or eBay. Likewise, social media advertising is virtually nonexistent; paid ads for CBD products risk account suspensions or bans. All your growth must be driven through organic content that falls under the guidelines of each platform.

“In today’s day and age, if someone is looking to sell a product, the normal avenues are Amazon, eBay, Alibaba or paid ads on social media,” Slovik said. “In this industry, it’s way, way, way different. You can’t do any of those things.”

To successfully advertise and sell your CBD products, you will have to be creative. Establishing your own e-commerce store or carrying your products in a brick-and-mortar location is a must. Marketing your product with an organic search strategy and customer loyalty programs is always safer than engaging in paid advertising. And, of course, every market is a bit different, so do your research and understand your local and state laws.

How to gain a competitive advantage

The key to gaining a competitive advantage with staying power in the CBD industry is to develop a high-quality product that will withstand the coming scrutiny of both regulators and educated consumers. If you want to differentiate yourself from other CBD businesses, it’s key to provide third-party lab testing results to validate the quality of your product, Slovik said.

“We want to be more transparent by putting QR codes on all our bottles so anyone in the store can use their phone to get lab results right then and there,” Slovik said.

In addition, Slovik said pursuing certifications like USDA organic, Good Manufacturing Practices and FDA facility registrations are important moves to instill confidence in consumers about the quality of the product they are buying.

Overall, Slovik said, the formula for success is simple, even if the process is complicated.

“I would recommend double-, triple-checking everything. Know there will be changes. Research as much as you can, and recognize what the future opportunities are by thinking outside the box,” he said.

Tip: If you want to differentiate yourself from other CBD businesses, it’s key to provide third-party lab testing results to validate the quality of your product.

Key challenges facing CBD businesses

The CBD and cannabis industry faces unique challenges that other industries don’t. Most of these challenges relate to the regulatory environment and, as federal agencies like the FDA detail specific rules and guidelines, things should stabilize. For now, though, if you want to start a CBD business, you should be aware of these major considerations:

  • Banking: Access to reliable banking services can be complicated due to the fluctuating regulatory landscape. Many banks are hesitant to do business with CBD and cannabis companies, fearing significant risk or burdensome oversight. Frequently, CBD businesses are forced to switch banks or experience the abrupt closure of a merchant account, which can seriously disrupt operations.
  • Insurance: Finding affordable insurance for a CBD business is another major challenge. Prices remain elevated despite the legalization of industrial hemp, Slovik said, as the industry takes time to catch up to the developments. Education remains a key obstacle.
  • Payment processing: Similarly, payment processors present high fees and other challenges to CBD businesses. Slovik said Visa recently cut off all CBD businesses, leaving him capable of only accepting MasterCard and Discover for payments.
  • Access to capital: Banks and other lenders are reluctant to fund CBD companies, viewing the industry as too risky without clear regulatory requirements. So far, the CBD industry has relied on bootstrapping, outside investors or alternative lenders to find the growth capital it needs.

Each of these challenges will likely be cleared up as more concrete regulation appears, but in the meantime, CBD businesses must remain adaptable and well-informed. Changes in the industry come on a day-to-day basis, so preparing backup plans ahead of time could save you a great deal of time and money should the worst come to pass.

CBD is a huge business opportunity, if it’s approached correctly

The growth opportunity in the CBD industry is unparalleled. The cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and CBD is one of the quickest growing sectors of that industry. Especially following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp CBD products are proliferating at a fast rate. If you want to start a CBD business, you’re not alone.

“This industry has been more or less illegal for the past century,” said Slovik. “At this point, there’s major, major momentum. Many people are trying to break in, so don’t follow the herd. You want to be a leader.”

A combination of due diligence and creativity will set your business up for success in the CBD industry. Now is the time to get in on the ground floor and build a company that will last, but differentiate yourself with a quality product that stands out from the crowd.

Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.