CBD analysis in UK finds high THC levels, other problems

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Almost half of 30 CBD products being sold in the UK recently tested hot for THC, recording double the generally accepted standard of 0.2% across Europe.

The study, published this month, was carried out by analysts PhytoVista under commission from the UK’s Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC), an industry trade group.

Gathering products available both online and at retail outlets, PhytoVista reported that 45% of those tested had levels of THC with a mean content 0.4%.

Other problems surface

In addition to the excessive THC levels, the PhytoVista research found:

  • Only 11 of 29 products tested were within 10% of the advertised CBD content.
  • Similarly, 11 of 29 products had less than 50% of the advertised CBD content.
  • One 30ml sample purchased from a pharmacy (shop), and retailing for £90, had 0% CBD content;
  • One product had 3.8% ethanol, more than the 3.4% that defines alcoholic beverages in the UK.
  • Dichoromethane, a solvent, was detectable in seven products (3.8-13.1ppm) while another solvent, cyclohexane, was found in one product (27.9ppm).

Critically, while these levels of solvents are still below the permitted daily dose for pharmaceutical products, they exceed food limit safety levels, CMC pointed out

“The industry as a whole must use these results to understand the areas of weakness in producing a quality product that consumers can trust,” CMC advised in the report, “and use the findings to justify additional steps they should take for their own production, or for reassurance across their supply chain that some of these negative results are not reflected in their own products.”

RPS calls for clarity

The findings prompted the UK’s Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to ask the the government for “clear guidance on the permissable level of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabidol (THC) in cannabidiol (CBD) oils.”

In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, RPS said the Society “is keen to advise its members on the steps they should take” to ensure that they do not inadvertently breach the law when handling CBD oil products. The RPS letter also notes that pharmacists want clear guidance on the legal situation when handling CBD oil products that contain trace levels of THC.

In its report, the CMC also called on the government to address “ambiguous, out-dated” legislation affecting CBD.

CBD can be legally sold in the UK as long as no medical claims are made in marketing. And licensed growers can plant approved seed types that don’t exceed 0.2% THC. But that limit in plant matter does not necessarily relate to the THC content of final products that may see elevated THC levels as a result of processing, said Gino Martini, chief scientist at the RPS.

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