Press release

LegitScript CBD Study: Gaps in Potency, Carcinogens, High Heavy Metal Levels

Sponsored by Businesswire

A comprehensive new study of the cannabidiol (CBD) industry revealed disturbing variations in product quality, including the presence of potentially dangerous substances in some CBD products. The report, released today by internet monitoring company LegitScript, analyzed the chemical makeup of CBD products from 30 providers of popular cannabidiol products. The results illustrate two critical shortcomings of product safety and regulatory compliance: dramatic variances from the products’ stated amount of CBD, and the presence of solvents and known toxins, including carcinogens.

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LegitScript CBD study reveals troublesome facts about industry compliance, product potency and safety, and transaction risks. (Graphic: Business Wire)

LegitScript CBD study reveals troublesome facts about industry compliance, product potency and safety, and transaction risks. (Graphic: Business Wire)

In the US, CBD is generally disallowed as an ingestible, must be derived from legally cultivated hemp, and contain no more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The items LegitScript tested included CBD lotions and topicals, which may be compliant with US federal law, and noncompliant products such as foods, supplements, and pet edibles. Products were tested using a reputable third-party laboratory.

According to the LegitScript study:

  • More than half of the products tested (16 of 30) had significantly less CBD (at least 20 percent less) than what the product packaging claimed;
  • Almost one-third (9 of 30) products had less than half of the amount of CBD advertised;
  • More than 10 percent (4 of 30) had significantly more CBD than stated, including two that had double the stated concentration of CBD.
  • Only 33 percent had CBD potency within a reasonable deviation of what was stated on the product (+/- 20 percent).

Beyond disparities in potency, testing also revealed some products contained heavy metals and carcinogens.

  • One of the 30 products tested had 5.6 times the permissible amount of ethylene oxide, a carcinogen linked to lymphoma and leukemia.
  • One of the 30 products tested had 18.5 times the permissible amount of lead.

“Some CBD products appear to be safe, but it’s imperative that consumers, e-commerce marketplaces, and payment providers understand the risks posed by some CBD products and sellers,” said John Horton, LegitScript’s President and CEO. “One CBD product we tested contained toxins similar to those in Flint, Michigan’s water supply at the height of the city’s lead crisis. Any legitimate potential of CBD is being overshadowed by substandard products and website operators who make claims that CBD can treat every disease under the sun. That’s why we believe LegitScript’s CBD Certification is the best way for CBD sellers to restore trust with customers, the payments community, and e-commerce platforms.” Horton said that CBD certification is available for both products and websites.

In addition to product testing, LegitScript researched payment processing among CBD sellers and discovered merchants engaged in high-risk financial behavior, including transaction laundering. Additionally, many sellers charged customers undeclared fees by transacting through offshore payments companies.

“We’re in the early stages of a CBD boom, which means there are many people trying to get into the market,” Horton said. “Without standards, we face a ‘Wild West’ industry with players ranging from ye’ old snake oil salesmen to highly legitimate, trusted players. Our approach to certification allows CBD providers to prove product quality, stand out from the crowd, and gain approval from a third-party certifying organization that is trusted by major payments companies and e-commerce platforms.”

CBD providers are challenged to demonstrate credibility to e-commerce platforms such as Google, Bing, Facebook, and Amazon. At the same time, they face significant challenges getting and maintaining merchant accounts because of the risk the industry poses. LegitScript certification can help CBD sellers demonstrate compliance so payment service providers can onboard these merchants more confidently.

The full LegitScript study on the CBD industry is available as a free download at

Free CBD Product Certification

To demonstrate LegitScript’s commitment to consumer awareness and public safety, the company is currently offering free CBD Product Certification. Standard pricing will be waived, including product application, lab testing, and monitoring fees. The offer applies specifically to CBD Product Certification, while CBD Merchant or Website Certification is subject to standard pricing.

As the CBD industry gains credibility, certification programs like those created by LegitScript can help speed adoption and inclusion in the more mainstream channels for sales and transactions.

About LegitScript

Since 2007, LegitScript has been making the internet and payment ecosystems safer and more transparent. The company combines big data with a team of human experts skilled in monitoring, certification, and high-risk products and websites. The result? Unmatched accuracy and deep risk analysis that identifies which commercial entities play by the rules, and which do not. LegitScript’s multidimensional view across the entire compliance ecosystem provides unique insights from all industries and angles, allowing businesses and governments to stay at the forefront of emerging high-risk trends. That’s why LegitScript is trusted by the world’s largest search engines, e-commerce platforms, payment companies, and regulatory agencies. For more information, visit