Right now, there’s a good chance that you don’t really know what you’re getting from any source. Testing and labeling rules vary by state, but many states that allow legal cannabis also require some kind of testing to verify that the THC and CBD levels listed on the label are accurate. However, this testing is controversial, and results can vary widely between labs, Jikomes said. A study published in March found measurable variations in test results, with some labs consistently reporting higher or lower levels of cannabinoids than others. There are no guarantees that the label accurately reflects what’s in the product. For a 2015 study published in JAMA, researchers tested 75 products purchased in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle and found that only 17 percent were accurately labeled. More than half of the products contained significantly lower levels of cannabinoids than the label promised, and some of them contained only negligible amounts of the compounds. “We need to come up with ways to confidently verify the composition of cannabis products and make this information available to consumers,” Jikomes said.
Quality is a particular concern, because cannabis plants easily soak up heavy metals from pesticides and other contaminants, Marcu says. If you are buying online, look for a company that documents how it tests its products. (If the website doesn’t indicate this, call and ask.) “Buying from a reputable manufacturer is crucial, because it matters how the plant is cultivated and processed,” Dr. Maroon says. One clue that a company is cutting corners: too low a cost. Good CBD is pricey—a bottle of high-quality capsules is sold in Cohen’s office for $140. But for many, it’s worth the money. Roth spent $60 on her tiny bottle. But when her energy returned the day she started taking CBD, she decided that was a small price to pay.
The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and Central Asia.