CBD Buyer Beware: Leafreport Decided to Uncover Which CBD Brands are Testing, and Which are Not

1 out of 4 products was NOT tested for microbial content, pesticides, or heavy metals
Written by 
Emma Francis Stone, Ph.D.
|Last Updated:
The Current State of CBD Transparency

Leaf Report statisticians put major CBD brands under the microscope to find out how many test their products for purity and potency; the discrepancies between what is advertised and what is contained in the product; and what the data reveals about the trends in CBD transparency overall.

We reviewed 2946 products from 136 brands to check the current status of the CBD industry when it comes to purity and potency testing–and to see how the market is shaping up compared to last year’s Leafreport on CBD transparency.

Summary of Key Findings

Product purity testing is still relatively rare among CBD retailers–possibly because the purity testing process costs more.

Third-party testing is frequently showing that the advertised potency of the products doesn’t always line up with what is advertised on the packaging.

Here’s our breakdown of the key findings that reveal the most valuable insights about the current state of industry transparency:

  • 25%  of  brands reviewed didn’t carry out any purity testing at all.
  • 84% of potency-tested products didn’t measure within the acceptable variance of up to 10%.
  • Only 42% of brands test almost all of their products for potency (90%-100%) and share their third-party lab results with consumers.
  • Only 13% of brands tested almost all of their products for purity testing, checking for microbial content, pesticides, or heavy metals
  • For purity testing, 35% of brands published results for 0-10% of their products.
  • Brands that offered 7 products or less were more likely to test most of their products for both potency and purity, as opposed to brands with over 40 products.
  • 4% of the tested brands only published results for 10% or less of their products.

CBD represents a new frontier in medicine–it’s non-intoxicating, well-tolerated, and capable of addressing diverse disorders. It’s no wonder so many of us are looking for a high-quality CBD tincture or jar of gummies to sit on our bedside table.

However, the buzz around CBD has seen a largely unregulated industry explode into existence, with little guarantee that consumers are getting what they pay for. Leafreport Market Reports point to evidence of products that do not align with what is promised on the packaging, with one recent report finding that less than 1 in 4 CBD topicals contain the amount of CBD on the label.

Fortunately, the competition in this nascent market is driving CBD companies to prove the integrity of their product via independent third-party purity and potency testing. CBD products that have been third-party tested offer consumers most assurance with respect to quality, safety and cannabinoid content.

So, which CBD companies are the most transparent in terms of testing their products? And how do their products measure up in terms of what they promise?

How Leaf Report is Demystifying CBD Transparency

Leaf Report has comprehensively reviewed a total of 136 different CBD companies, thoroughly combing the Certificates of Analysis (COA) on each brand’s website for every single product listed–that’s a total of (2946 products!). Full disclaimer: if we have missed a COA, it’s simply because it was not visually accessible or easy to find.

Here’s what we’ve tallied:

  • The total number of products each brand offer consumers;
  • The percentage of the products that have been tested for potency;
  • The percentage of the potency-tested products that measure within the acceptable variance (+-10%);
  • The percentage of the products that have been tested for purity;
  • The percentage of the products that have been specifically tested for pesticide residue;
  • The percentage of the products that have been specifically tested for the presence of heavy metals;
  • The percentage of the products that have been specifically tested for the presence of microbes

CBD Potency Testing: Why Is It Important to the Consumer?

Potency testing is used to verify whether a product is delivering what it promises. The concentration of CBD or other cannabinoids stated on a product label must match the concentration measured by the testing laboratory within a 10% variance–so the product can have up to 10% higher, or up to 10% lower concentration than stated on the label.

“For a consumer, third party purity testing is incredibly important because they have the right to know what exactly is in the CBD product that they are purchasing,” says Jill Ellsworth, CEO and founder of Willow Industries, a leader in cannabis and hemp decontamination technology.

“Does it have the reported percentage of CBD that is on the label? Or is it completely deficient and/or lacking of the cannabinoid properties?”

Ellsworth emphasizes that when a consumer purchases a product whose potency has been evaluated by a third party lab, they are receiving an unbiased analysis of their product, void of influence from the manufacturer or distributor.

For Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. potency testing is essential as it ensures accurate information about the cannabinoid concentrations is communicated to the consumer.

“Potency testing is important as consumers want to know about the active ingredients – and how much they will be taking per serving,” he elaborates. “Often, children with epilepsy will be “dosed” or served according to their body weight and will require a specific amount of product (likely CBD) to control seizure episodes.” Ensuring the dosage is accurate is critical to ensuring the user receives the desired effects.

Titus notes that many CBD companies also have their own internal lab facilities to perform daily verifications of label claims and product safety – and then they use an independent lab for batch analysis which may be carried out weekly or monthly.

Often state or local regulations will have third-party lab testing for potency as a standard requirement before a product can be marketed. “Third-party testing is derived from the desire to have an independent group analyzing the final finished product, and having this group, that has no financial stake in the outcome, to provide an accurate analysis of the end consumer product,” states Titus.

Third party testing facilities publish the potency data in a Certificate of Analysis format which brands then upload to their website, or link to via a QR code.

CBD Purity Testing: What Does It Mean for the Consumer?

Potency testing checks whether the product actually contains the cannabinoid content promised–but it doesn’t reveal much about product safety or quality. That’s where purity testing comes in. Purity testing checks CBD products for the presence of microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, or residual toxins. The data is shared on a certificate of analysis with the findings for each category broken down, then usually summarized as a pass or a fail.

Purity should represent a major consideration for consumers researching and purchasing CBD products. CBD is generally derived from hemp–and hemp is a phytoremediator plant that siphons toxins and contaminants from the soil and water that nourishes it. Purity testing exposes whether these contaminants have made their way into the CBD extracted from the hemp.

“Third-party lab testing is extremely important for the industry as wholesalers and consumers need to know the exact ingredients that make up a final, finished product that will be delivered to the market,” explains Titus. “The purity of the product – that there are no residual toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, or other contaminants – makes for a consumer-safe product. Many children take non-psychoactive forms of cannabis and certainly doctors and parents want to know that the product is lab-tested and assured safe for the child.”

Ellsworth echoes that purity testing helps to keep customers safe, and producers honest. “The supplement industry is guided by the United States Pharmacopeia, which provides third-party testing for supplement companies so their consumers know they are staying honest and the product is true to the label,” she says. “Consumers use CBD for medicinal purposes so it is incredibly important to provide them with accurate data and info.”

Ellsworth also acknowledges that the cost and availability of testing can impact whether or not companies decide to test for purity. “But it should not be left up to the company,” she emphasizes. “It should be required. This is a consumer good and medicinal product that needs proper labeling. Companies need to be transparent and honest with their products as it will continue to maintain the integrity of the industry.”

The following sections reveal the brands that are the most transparent when it comes to testing.

The Top 10 Most Transparent and Accurate Brands In Potency and Purity

Leafreport has also compiled a list and breakdown of the ten most transparent CBD brands in the industry based on the data. When it comes to the number of products tested for potency and purity, these brands offer consumers the most consistent assurance about the quality and integrity of the product they’ve purchased.

Green Roads

Organic brand Green Roads offers CBD consumers an impressive range of 40 different CBD products. All of these products have undergone potency testing, with 77% of the products tested passing the test.

What’s more, Green Roads also tested 38 of its 40 products for heavy metals, pesticides and microbes. The results of their third-party testing for potency and purity can be found on the Certificate of Analysis page on their website, offering consumers peace of mind.

Green Road’s comment to our report:

Green Roads has robust quality control standards that are designed to adhere to guidelines established by the FDA. As you are probably aware, the FDA guidelines stipulate that up to a 20% variance in naturally occurring substances in dietary supplements is the industry standard. While CBD is not categorized officially as a dietary supplement, we believe this is the applicable category and Green Roads has calibrated 100% of our products to stay within those guidelines.

Leaf Report used a 10% variance for their study instead of 20%. This is why they report that 77% of our products passed their test, rather than the full 100% which adhere to the FDA standards. We disagree with their methodology.” 

Just Live

Athlete-focused brand Just Live CBD boasts a range of 15 CBD products, all of which are subjected to third-party scrutiny for both potency and purity. Thirteen products, a total of 87%, made the grade when it came to potency testing.

Every single product is also tested for heavy metal, pesticide, and microbial content, with the results shared on their Certificate of Analysis (COA) page of their website. The hemp from which the CBD is extracted isn’t certified USDA Organic, but it is non-GMO.

Koi CBD

Koi CBD offers consumers a range of 27 U.S. sourced and extracted CBD products, 26 of which have been tested for potency. Of the tested products, 77% meet the criteria for accurate potency–that is, they fall within the accepted 10% variance level.

Koi products mostly all undergo purity testing, with a total 96% of products tested for pesticide, 93% tested for the presence of heavy metals, and 96% tested for microbial content. The brand’s certificate of analyses can be found on the Lab Results page of its websites.

Medterra CBD

Medterra CBD has committed to testing every single product in their range of thirty for potency. This is particularly noteworthy, as Leaf Report found that brands that offered 7 products or less were more likely to test most of their products than those with higher volumes of products. Of the thirty products tested for potency, twenty met the acceptable potency variance level.

Medterra CBD also tested the majority of its products for purity: 93% were tested for pesticide residue, 93% were tested for heavy metal contaminants, and 97% were tested for microbes. Although Medterra is not certified USDA Organic, its CBD is sourced from hemp plants that are non-GMO and certified by the US Hemp Authority. The brand provides evidence of its Certificates of Analysis on its website.

NuLeaf Naturals

NuLeaf Naturals boasts a range of 11 CBD products formulated using organic (but not certified USDA organic) hemp. Every single one of their 11 products has been tested for potency, and each product has passed the potency test.

Every single product has also undergone purity testing, with 100% of products tested for the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, and microbes. Data from potency and purity testing is shared on their NuLeaf Naturals Lab Results page.

Original Hemp

Every single one of the 25 products that comprises the Original Hemp range have been tested for potency. 72% of these products have met acceptable variance levels for their potency tests.

92% of Original Hemp products have also been tested for the presence of pesticides, 92% have been tested for the presence of heavy metals, and 96% of products have been tested for microbes. The brand shares the data breakdown for each of its products on its Lab Results page.

PlusCBD Oil

PlusCBD Oil offers consumers a range of 26 distinct CBD products, 25 of which have been tested for potency. Of these, 72% have met the criteria for acceptable potency variance levels.

The brand has also committed to testing for purity across the majority of its products, with 96% of products tested for pesticides, 96% tested for heavy metals, and 96% tested for microbes. The brand’s Certificates of Analysis page shares these results. PlusCBD oil is US Hemp Authority certified.

Receptra Naturals

Receptra Naturals boasts a range of 25 organically-grown CBD products (although the products are not certified USDA Organic). Of these, 23 have been tested for potency, with 96% of the tested products meeting accepted potency variance levels.

The majority of Receptra CBD products are also tested for purity. 96% of products have been tested for the presence of pesticides, 100% have been tested for heavy metal contamination, and 100% have been tested for the presence of microbes. The company’s purity and potency test results are available on its Third-Party Testing page, complete with an explanation.

Root Wellness CBD

The Root Wellness range contains 8 CBD products in total. Each product has been tested for potency with 88% of products meeting approved potency variance levels.

All Root Wellness CBD products have also been tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and microbes.

R+R Medicinals

R+R Medicinals offers consumers a compact range of 9 different CBD products. The CBD sourced for the products is both certified by USDA Organic and by the US Hemp Authority. All R+R Medicinal products have been tested for potency, and 67% of the products have made the grade in meeting permitted potency variance.

Every R+R Medicinal product is also tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and microbes. Both the potency and purity data is shared on the brand’s Lab Testing page.

The Top 40 Transparent Brands that Tested 95% or More of Their Products for Potency

Here’s our list of the forty CBD brands, with more than four products in their line, that tested 95% or more of their products. While these brands represent the most transparent of the CBD companies we reviewed, this list simply indicates that they engage in testing–but not that they have necessarily passed the potency tests. Further detail is provided below for each brand.

Austin and Kat

Austin and Kat have 15 products in their line and tested all of them. 87% of the products were found to be within the acceptable range.

CalyFX

CalyFX have 37 products within their CBD range and tested all of them. 97% of the products were found to be within the acceptable range.

CBD Dog Health

CBD Dog Health has 15 products within their CBD range and tested all of them. 67% were found to be within the acceptable range.

CBDistillery

CBDistillery has 36 products within its range and tested 35 of them. 66% were found to be within the acceptable range.

cbd MD

cbd MD has 63 products in its CBD line and tested 61 of them. 66% were found to meet the acceptable potency levels.

CBDMEDIC

CBDMEDIC has 14 products in its CBD line and tested all of them. 93% were found to meet acceptable potency variance levels.

CBD Pure

CBD Pure has 5 products in its line and tested all of them. 100% of the products met acceptable potency variance levels.

Coastal Clouds

Coastal Clouds has 10 products in its CBD line and tested all of them. Only 30% of the products were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

CoBo Wellness CBD

The 6 CoBo CBD products in its range were all subjected to potency tests. 50% of the products were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

Dr. Zogg’s

There are 4 products within the Dr. Zoggs line, all of which were tested. None met the acceptable variance levels for potency.

Envy CBD

All 24 products in Envy CBD’s product line were tested for potency. 83% of the products were found to meet the acceptable potency variance levels.

Five CBD

All 8 products with Five CBD’s product line were tested for potency. 75% met the acceptable potency levels.

Green Roads

39 of the 40 products within the Green Roads CBD line were tested for potency. 77% were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

Half Day CBD

All 9 of Half Day CBD’s product range were tested for potency. Only 44% were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

Honest Paws

21 of the 22 products within the Honest Paws range were tested for potency. 95% were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

Ignite CBD

All 11 of Ignite CBD’s product range were tested for potency. 82% were found to meet acceptable variance levels.

Industrial Hemp Farms

85 of Industrial Hemp Farms’ range of 88 products were tested for potency. 78% met acceptable variance levels.

Jupiter Organic CBD

All 3 of Jupiter Organic’s CBD range were tested for potency. Every product met acceptable variance levels.

Just Live

All 15 of Just Live’s CBD range have been tested for potency. 87% of the products tested met acceptable variance levels.

King Kanine

All 4 of King Kanine’s CBD products have been tested for potency. 75% met the acceptable potency variance levels.

Koi CBD

Koi CBD has a range of 27 CBD products, 26 of which have been tested for potency. 77% met the acceptable potency variance levels.

Lazarus Naturals

Lazarus Naturals has a range of 53 CBD products, 52 of which have been potency tested. 83% were found to meet acceptable potency levels.

Lily Hill CBD

All 6 of Lily Hill’s CBD products have been potency tested. 67% were found to meet acceptable potency levels.

Made by Hemp

All 36 of Made by Hemp’s range of CBD products have been tested for potency. 67% were found to meet acceptable potency levels.

Medterra CBD

Medterra CBD carries out potency tests for all 30 of its CBD products. 67% were found to meet acceptable potency levels.

Nature and Bloom

All 10 of Nature and Bloom’s CBD range is tested for potency. 70% were found to meet acceptable potency levels.

NuLeaf Naturals

NuLeaf naturals tests all 11 of its CBD products, with 100% meeting the acceptable potency levels.

Original Hemp

All 25 Original Hemp CBD products are tested for potency. 72% of these products meet the acceptable potency variance levels.

Pachamama

Pachamama tests all 22 products in its CBD range, with 86% of the products tested meeting acceptable potency variance levels.

Pacific CBD

20 of the 21 products in the Pacific CBD range are tested for potency. 70% of these products were found to meet acceptable potency variance levels.

Plus CBD Oil

There are 26 CBD products in the Plus CBD Oil range. 25 of these products have been tested for potency, and 72% meet the acceptable potency variance levels.

Populum

All 10 Populum CBD products are tested for potency. 90% of these meet the acceptable potency variance levels.

PureKana

34 of the 35 products within the PureKana CBD range are tested for potency. Only 50% of these were found to meet the acceptable variance levels.

Reason to Smile

Reason to Smile has a range of 4 CBD products, all of which are tested. Only 25% were found to meet the acceptable variance levels.

Root Wellness

All 8 Root Wellness CBD products are tested for potency. 88% of these met acceptable potency variance levels.

R+R Medicinals

All 9 R+R Medicinals CBD products are tested for potency. 67% met the acceptable potency variance levels.

SabaiDee

All 6 SabaiDee CBD products are tested for potency. 100% of these products met the acceptable variance levels.

Seabedee

Seabedee boasts a range of 12 CBD products, all of which are potency tested. Only 58% were found to have the acceptable variance levels.

Urth CBD

All 9 Urth CBD products are tested for potency. 89% were found to be within the acceptable potency variance levels.

Zadaka

Zadaka has 16 CBD products in its range, all of which are tested for potency. A very low 6% were found to meet the acceptable potency variance levels.

Some Final Thoughts of the State of the Industry

In general, it appears that there is still abundant room for many CBD brands to improve on transparency. While it’s commendable that brands are making steps in the right direction to establish transparency to consumers, unacceptable potency test results and a lack of purity testing indicates that many brands have considerable work to do to hold themselves accountable and deliver high-quality, accurately-measured products to consumers.

Furthermore, the data suggests that even the most reliable and highest-performing CBD producers can lift their performance. Only two of the ten top-performing brands for purity and potency reviewed here–NuLeaf Natural and Receptra CBD–were found to have more than 95% accuracy for product potency.

Too frequently, there is a pronounced gap between the potency advertised on the label and the potency measured and reported after third-party testing. Some of the potency test results indicated in this report are so poor that one must wonder whether consumers are checking COAs before they purchase products, or if they know how to interpret COA results. Moreover, these discrepancies serve to underline the importance of enforced potency testing for all brands.

This data also shows that purity testing is less common among CBD retailers, but that it’s no less critical. Subjecting products to both purity and potency testing and publishing those results offers peace of mind to clued-up consumers who demand reassurance about what is present in the CBD they consume.

As CBD consumers become more savvy and the market matures, it’s likely that both purity and potency testing will become de rigueur.

References

  1. Bonn-Miller, M. O., Loflin, M. J., Thomas, B. F., Marcu, J. P., Hyke, T., & Vandrey, R. (2017). Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. Jama, 318(17), 1708-1709.
  2. Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational investigation of the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD): toward a new age. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 2009.
  3. Linger, P., Müssig, J., Fischer, H., & Kobert, J. (2002). Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) growing on heavy metal contaminated soil: fibre quality and phytoremediation potential. Industrial Crops and Products, 16(1), 33-42.
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Dr. Emma F. Stone is passionate about plant medicine and the potential it holds in transforming the current medical paradigm. She has written extensively for Leafly, Weedmaps, Flowertown, Psychedelic Science Review, and contributed to industry reports and fact sheets detailing cannabis medicine, dosage, and delivery methods for diverse conditions. She’s currently working on a book exploring plant medicine and its uses.

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