Buying a Food or Drink with CBD in It? Here's What to Look for on the Label
Chill out safely with our smart shopping guide.
The CBD market isn't just bursting with a wide range of food, drink, and tincture products — these items look downright inviting: pastel-packaged soda cans, sparkling sugared gummies in Godiva-worthy boxes, even olive oil stamped with airy minimalist fonts in easy-pour glass bottles.
Yes, everything seems to have a little CBD in it these days, but how can you decipher what you're actually buying?
RELATED: What is CBD?
After all, shoppers new to CBD have reason to be cautious. Inaccurate labeling (meaning the CBD percentage in the product that don't match what's advertised) has loomed over the industry. And this only builds upon the confusing legality of these products (more on that in a minute).
But it's still possible shop smart for CBD food and beverages if you know what to look for.
Use this guide to help you navigate the wide, colorful world of CBD-infused products and discover trustworthy brands that will leave you confident in your chill-inducing purchase.
First, stick to purchasing CBD products in legal states
This is a no-brainer but it's worth repeating: Only a certain number of states allow the sale of food and beverages with CBD in them, so that's where you should shop for your next infused chocolate bar or gummy pack. We won't get into the full legality breakdown (You can read up on that here), but essentially CBD in food and drink is not legal at the federal level, but it is legal in a good number of states.
So, if you're in a state like Washington that doesn't allow CBD in beverages or a state like Idaho that outlaws cannabis in every form and you see a tempting can of CBD soda at the corner store, that's a red flag to not purchase.
Visit this resource to see if your state allows CBD in food and drinks. (Fun fact: Vermont has specific rules for CBD in maple syrup because, well, of course Vermont does.)
Next, seek out trusted CBD purveyors
Shop at marijuana dispensaries or CBD-specific shops if you're in a state that has legalized recreational or medical marijuana. These will more likely carry goods from trusted (and vetted) manufacturers, plus you can chat about dosage, usage, and recommendations from budtenders that know the products.
Take care with online shopping, too. Seek out independent brands (as opposed to buying from Amazon, where it's technically not allowed) that readily share product information to inform your purchase.
Finally, consider looking for brands that operate in early legalization states like Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, or Massachusetts. They're more likely to work with experienced cannabis and hemp growers and have systems, standards, and protocols already in place (such as seed-to-sale tracking) — increasing the likelihood of a high-quality product for you.
Now, here's how to read that CBD product label
The label should include either a batch number, website, or QR code so you can look up the Certificate of Analysis (COA). This data comes from a third-party lab and will list percentages of all cannabinoids and pass/fail info on substances like pesticides or toxins.
Here's an example report to visualize what the report looks like, or visit this luxury gummy purveyor's website that walks you through the batch code lookup process. And if the label has a QR code printed on it, simply put your smartphone camera up to the code to take you straight to the lab results.
It's in your best interest to make sure your product has a COA, otherwise it's a gamble whether the product is legit.
Look for robust information on a CBD product
While not a necessity, this can indicate the company cares about educating shoppers like you. Does it list clear dosage information like this hemp-infused olive oil? Does it tell you how long to wait for the effects to set in like this gourmet chocolate bar? And, more simply, does it include all the standard information you'd expect to see on a food product anyway, like a nutrition facts panel?
In general, scan the packaging for the following information:
- Amount of active CBD per serving
- Ingredient list and nutrition facts
- Net weight
- Manufacturer or distributor name
- Suggested use
- Full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate
- Batch or date code
Stay away from outrageous CBD health claims
These products are to be avoided at all costs, as this goes against FDA regulations. (Yes, CBD isn't federally legal, but anything that makes a health claim can be classified as a drug and thus falls under the FDA's regulatory umbrella. The agency has already sent warnings to companies selling CBD products that didn't follow the rules.)
So, if you read a claim that using a CBD product will prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, keep it out of your shopping cart.
RELATED: How to Start Cooking with CBD Oil
When in doubt regarding a CBD product, trust your instincts
Do a gut check: Does this look like a professionally packaged product with child-resistant caps and a nutrition facts label panel? Does the website make it easy to navigate to test results, product dosing, and ingredient lists? Does the label say this gummy will miraculously cure anything?
Common sense when shopping, combined with the tips above, will put you on the best path to finding a CBD snack you can feel good about.