A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a certified document that displays the safety analysis results on a cannabidiol product. Commonly abbreviated as CBD, cannabidiol is a chemical found in Cannabis sativa (marijuana) plants. Many CBD products have inaccurate labels, according to a 2019 study.¹ It is crucial to inspect the COA to ensure the product you are buying is genuine.
The COA and Important Elements
There are several areas a COA may appear on a product. Some states require that manufacturers place a QR code on their cannabis products that displays a digital
COA. If a QR code is not available on the product’s packaging, the COA should be available on the company’s website. Once you have located the COA, there are several essential details to inspect to ensure quality.
Check for an Unbiased Test Environment
Product analysis is valuable only when conducted impartially. The entity that ran the study should be a disinterested third-party facility— not the product manufacturer.
The name of this organization should be displayed prominently in the header for easy identification. After determining the organization’s name, a simple internet query should provide the necessary information about the testing facility. Some details to watch for include:
- The relationship of the testing facility to the product manufacturer
- Information on prior or pending litigation
- The testing facility’s track-record and previous work history
Pay special attention to the report date located in the header. Even if the third-party organization is reputable, the results may be outdated. You want a recent, up-to-date analysis. If the study is more than a year old, you should consider it obsolete.
The next item of the COA to inspect are the levels of various cannabinoid compounds, including CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), and CBN (cannabinol).
To ensure the desired result, the levels of these ingredients must be at particular amounts. At proper dosages, each of these compounds produces unique medicinal qualities.
- CBG is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, bone stimulating, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic. It has shown positive results in treating glaucoma, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, various skin infections, cachexia, and some bladder dysfunction disorders.
- CBC is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-depressant.
- CBC has shown positive results in managing particular cancers, pain, inflammation, neurological diseases, acne, and depression.
- CBN is analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-insomnia, and has shown positive results in treating bacterial infections and ALS.
The desired levels of each of these compounds vary depending on your specific needs and goals. Consult with a medical professional to ensure accurate figures.
A microbial test determines levels of microbiological contamination such as salmonella, yeast, and mold. Some people have severe reactions to even supposedly benign levels of these contaminants, so this test should show zero contamination.
Upon inspecting the COA for microbial levels, you should see each contaminant listed along with its detection rating. A result of ND indicates “Not Detected.”
Additionally, check for the presence of heavy metals that might have contaminated the product. There should not be any lead, methyl, mercury, or arsenic detected.
Since CBD products come from plants, pesticides are a concern. Included in the COA should be an itemized list of all detected pesticides. Pesticide levels are typically measured in parts per billion (ppb). To indicate a safe amount of each chemical, “PASS” should appear next to each item. If any item does not show a passing measurement, then the product should not be considered safe for consumption or use.
When purchasing CBD products, safety is paramount. You must know what to look for to know how to get the best experience possible. Be sure to use and enjoy your cannabis product responsibly.
- Alan Gionet, “What’s In Your CBD? Study Finds Many Product Labels Are Inaccurate”, November 8, 2019, https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/11/08/cbd-product-labels-inaccurate/ (accessed Tuesday, March 30, 2021)