CBD Certificates of Analysis (COA): What They are, Why They are Crucial to Protect Consumers, and the Gap They Fill With Cannabis Branding

One of the benefits of legalizing marijuana involves everything being regulated — supply chains, grow facilities, dispensaries, health and safety inspections, taxes, ensuring that minors cannot make illegal purchases, etc. At the moment, because the CBD market is not regulated, the only consumer protection available for CBD is proof of independent, third-party testing done by an accredited lab (not a manufacturer), known as a Certificate of Analysis (COA). A COA is the closest thing to consumer protection and regulation available with CBD products at the moment. It confirms that you are buying a particular product for which the company is liable and which has been tested to ensure that it is safe.

When it comes to CBD products, it is crucial that consumers demand a COA so that they ensure quality and safety and avoid deception. A COA is the most reliable source of information for CBD products at the moment because it is the only proof of the product’s actual composition.  

What Does Third Party Testing Determine, Specifically?

Third party testing of these products typically measures:

  • The total amount of cannabinoids in the product (how much CBD and/or THC)
  • Its concentration (dose/potency)
  • Whether the product contains any heavy metals (such as arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, cobalt, iron, lead, mercury, etc.), herbicides, microbial contamination (such as E. coli, Salmonella, yeast, etc.), pesticides, and/or residual solvents
  • The total amount of and which terpenes are in the product

Why Does This Matter?

Other than ensuring that you are not purchasing a fraudulent product that is unsafe to use, third party testing is also necessary so that you know all of the relevant details in order to ensure that the product serves the purpose for which it is intended. For example, if you are regularly drug tested, you have to ensure that the product you are purchasing does not contain any THC, or if you rely on CBD to help you sleep, and know that you need to get 17 mg in order for it to have this effect, you have to look at the COA for the CBD product you are purchasing to ensure that it is exactly what you need it to be.

What Does This Have to do With Cannabis Brands?

A COA also provides you with the information and protection you need if you have to switch from one product brand to another, which can be an issue when it comes to cannabis brands. The industry is known for consumers having difficulty distinguishing the differences between one brand’s “Super skunk Haze #2” from another’s. Cannabis companies face a number of challenges when it comes to branding with purpose and relevance, and as a result, many consumers have difficulty sticking with just one brand of product.

How can I Access a COA?

When you purchase or receive a CBD product, there should be a QR code on its label that you can scan to bring up a webpage that contains the product’s COA. If this is not the case, you can also obtain the COA directly from the company that manufactures the product or try using Google to obtain it.

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