The FDA’s July 9 testing report documented lab testing of CBD products between 2014 and 2020.

The FDA summarized that little or no harmful materials (such as heavy metals) were found in a strong majority of CBD products and that the industry is slowly improving its labeling accuracy: 45% of the products tested in 2020 contained CBD levels within 20% of the advertised amount (up from 33% in the 2019 survey).

Jonathan Havens, a partner at Baltimore-based cannabis law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP and a former FDA regulatory counsel, points out that the agency only tested online CBD products.

“The results are not representative of the industry,” he says. “Anyone who has ever tried to sell CBD in a major chain knows that these stores—and the distributors that get products into their stores—vet this category heavily.”

Those CBD manufacturers say the bigger problem is the FDA’s definition of “accurate” as being within 20% of the label.

“I can tell you, from lab to lab using the same exact sample, we can get a deviation of greater than 30%,” Mitchell says. “That means testing is not as accurate as people want.”

Merle has experienced similar problems, especially because not every lab tests the same. “It would be helpful if the FDA would put some standards on testing,” she says.