Many consumers have questions about the trace amounts of THC found in CBD oils and with that in mind we wanted to break it down here.
Following the recent study of the UK CBD market by the Centre for Medical Cannabis there have been various headlines about illegal levels of THC in CBD oils followed by calls for extra regulation. Food standards regulations already apply to any product sold for human consumption, so lets look at how much THC the average CBD oil user is getting into their system.
The CMC study found the average THC content of 30 different CBD oils on the UK market to be 0.04%, in a 10ml bottle containing 5% CBD (500mg). This equals an average of 4mg THC per bottle.
The study also found the average consumer is spending £25 per month, while those ‘with a presumed medically orientated usage’ spending on average £55 per month. Of the various priced products ranging from extracts to edibles on the market, you could say the average user (at £25) is consuming around 300mg CBD (and 2.4mg THC) per month, and the ‘presumed medically orientated user’ (at £55) is consuming around 800mg CBD (and 6.4mg THC) per month.
Lets give that some perspective.
When hemp seed oil was reintroduced for human consumption in the mid 90’s, it was not uncommon find seed oils to contain in excess of 100ppm THC, from both European and Chinese origin.
100ppm THC in a 1 litre bottle = 100mg THC.
Extra care and attention to the seed washing process have been implemented since, and washed hemp seeds can now be expected to contain around 5-10ppm THC, which can be reduced to around 3ppm when dehulled.
3ppm in 1kg = 3mg THC.
Based on a review of the available studies, the Swiss government set its limit for THC in hemp seed oil at 50ppm.
50ppm in 1 litre = 50mg THC.
All the available evidence deemed this as an ample safety margin and there was ‘no risk of intoxication or detrimental health effects, even when the hemp foods are consumed in large quantities’.
This recent study detected the presence of ’32 cannabinoids in hemp seed oil’, with 22 of the 32 being ranking as ‘statistically significant’. These were, CBD, CBDA, CBGA-C4, CBEA, CBCT, CBDVA, THC, THCA, CBDV, CBN, CBMA, CBCA, CBDA-C4, CBTA, CBNA, CBT, 6,7-epoxy-CBG, CBG, THCA-C1, CBD-C4, CBCV and THCV.
In addition, the study found that, ‘for the first time a number of cannabinoids, which to the best of our knowledge have never been reported, have been identified in hemp seed oil’
That’s right, cannabinoids we don’t know anything about, or even have a name for, are present in hemp seed oil. Should we be concerned? No.
The study noted that ‘apart from THC, there are no guidelines concerning the maximum daily dose of the known cannabinoids that can be consumed by a single person.’
So why are bodies in the UK now raising concerns about the trace THC content in CBD oils, despite studies showing that high-consumers of hemp seed products may in fact be getting more THC into their system than the average CBD oil user?
It is also worth noting that the average consumer purchasing full spectrum CBD oil products expects there to be a trace amount of THC. Consumers of hemp seed oil generally do not expect trace THC when they buy that in the supermarket. So should we subject hemp seed oils to extra regulation? No.
What about drug screening? Limited studies conducted in the 1990’s showing positive THC results in drug screening after the consumption of hemp seeds. These hemp seeds were likely to contain a higher ppm than the ones currently on the market. Results suggest that ingesting up to 0.45mg of THC per day is not likely to give positives at the 50ppb cut off commonly used for screening tests, nor at the 15ppb cutoff which is used to confirm the results using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. (Individual rates of bioaccumulation will vary)
0.45mg THC per day = 13.5mg THC per month.
So even the ‘presumed medically orientated user’ spending £55 and consuming approx 800mg CBD and 6.4mg THC per month, is well within any predetermined safe levels of consumption.
It is almost impossible to completely remove all of the THC from CBD oil or hemp seed oil. You can remove most of it, but even if the level is down to 1ppm THC it’s still not absolute zero. Products sold as THC free will still likely contain a few ppm THC.
Following initial industry guidelines of products containing less than 0.2% THC, many companies and newspapers have moved to talking about 1mg THC per consumer product as the maximum allowed.
This misuse of drugs act was created to enable access of up to 1mg of a controlled substance for research purposes only. Many are overlooking the 3rd part of the definition for the MDA exemption to actually be applicable, not for human consumption. As we’ve established here, while a 10ml bottle of CBD in the UK may contain 4mg of THC, a 1 litre bottle of hemp seed oil from Europe could contain up to 50mg THC. Should we really be looking to enforce outdated regulation which would see hemp seed oil treated as a controlled substance?
Note: To those who say hemp seed oil has an established use prior to ’97 which exempts it from this rule, whereas CBD oil doesn’t, well, thats now novel foods regulations, and you can’t mix and match your regulations.
There are mountain villages in China that are home to some of the worlds oldest populations, in regions which have a long standing history of consuming hemp seeds and seed oil. These seeds were not being subjected to sterilisation and washing to reduce the THC content to under 10ppm before being sold and consumed. These seeds were unwashed and sticky with bracts and trichomes. Cannabis sativa ssp. chinesis, also known as ‘Chinese hemp’, is often THC dominant, unlike European hemp, with THC:CBD ratios of 26:1 being found in some fibrous varieties. The cannabinoid and terpene profile of Cannabis sativa ssp. chinesis is a lot closer to that of Cannabis ssp. indica and Cannabis ssp. afghanica, than that of European hemp, Cannabis ssp. sativa.
Mankind has had a co-evolutionary, symbiotic relationship with Cannabis going back millennia. Its time we properly re-introduce this valuable plant back into society and give Cannabis the respect it deserves.