Only one-third of marijuana extracts accurately labeled, researchers say

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The medical community is split on how safe CBD is.

The demand for cannabis-based medical products is growing - specifically cannabidiol, or CBD. That could potentially mean those CBD products are ineffective or even risky. The DEA, and the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, consider CBD a Schedule 1 substance without a valid medical use. Thus, many people do not have access to stores that sell CBD products and instead rely on online retailers to purchase CBD products.

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A new study from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine authored by Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD and co-authored by RTI International's Brian F. Thomas, Ph.D., and others, published this week in JAMA, found labeling inaccuracies in almost 70 percent of CBD products obtained online. The labeling problems likely stem from inadequate regulation and oversight of the products, they said. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate derivatives of the plant, including CBD extracts. "There are now no standards for producing, testing, or labeling these oils", Bonn-Miller said. One drug company, GW Pharmaceuticals, is now pursuing FDA approval on a CBD-based treatment for children with a rare form of epilepsy - but beyond that, the industry remains unregulated, and Bonn-Miller warns consumers should be wary of what they're purchasing online. "Selling these oils without oversight, there is no way to know what is actually in the bottle".

"These findings highlight the need for manufacturing and testing standards, and oversight of medicinal cannabis products", the researchers concluded. Products considered to be "accurately labeled" contained 90 to 110 percent of the labeled value of CBD. Another 26 percent of products contained a lower concentration of CBD than indicated. Then they analyzed each product for actual CBD content, as well as other ingredients. While 36 products had more extract than what was shown on the label, 22 products were over-labeled, containing less than the label indicated. Because of the variability between products, it can also be hard for patients to expect consistent results.

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"People are using this as medicine for many conditions (anxiety, inflammation, pain, epilepsy)", Bonn-Miller explained. "The biggest implication is that many of these patients may not be getting the proper dosage", Bonn-Miller said. THC was detected in 18 of the 84 samples tested, and in some cases it was found in concentrations that "may be sufficient to produce intoxication or impairment, especially among children", the authors wrote in their paper.

"Parents could be giving their kids THC without knowing it", says Bonn-Miller. This means some cannabidiol products may be labeled inaccurately.

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Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.

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