What does THC-Free CBD Oil mean exactly and how some CBD tinctures contain as much THC as a marijuana joint?

Read this blog post before shopping for a CBD product.

Note: This blog post was last revised on June 7.

Understanding the new lingo of the rapidly expanding CBD industry, which lacks regulations and standards, can be difficult. There are countless marketing claims being thrown around, many of which are odd and confusing. One of the most frequent claims on CBD products is “THC-Free.” However, the true definition of this claim may be different from what you expect. Let’s dive a little deeper into what it means to be considered “THC-Free.”

The industry and legal standard for any CBD product is one that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight. This means that a CBD product may legally contain up to 3 parts of THC for every thousand parts of oil by weight. In order to determine if a product is under this legal THC limit, reputable CBD manufacturers test their products in a third-party lab to obtain a Certificate of Analysis (COA) which details specific concentrations of cannabinoids in the product.

What has catapulted Kazmira as a leader in CBD manufacturing and wholesaling is our unique Imperial Oil™, an ~80% CBD oil with other minor cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as non-detect levels of THC. This “non-detect” level is the key to unlocking this conversation. Claiming “Zero-THC” is easy as a business owner, but as a scientist, Co-CEO Dr. Priyanka Sharma is more comfortable with a technical claim than a marketing one. To put it succinctly, “Zero of anything in a botanical extract is impossible. Non-detect is the accurate term.” The THC concentration in Kazmira’s Imperial Oil™ and Silver Plume Oil™ is so minuscule that it cannot be detected by the highly sensitive instruments used in third-party labs. Kazmira’s Imperial™ and Silver Plume™ Oils have no detectable trace of THC and are therefore considered “non-detect” (ND). The third-party COA for a Kazmira product is shown below, and reports the various cannabinoids that are at ND levels, including THC and THCV.

Kazmira COA from 3rd Party Labs

(Figure 1:  Kazmira COA from a 3rd Party Lab)

Notice in the COA image above that the oil contains close to 85% CBD by weight, non-detect levels of THC and THCV, and a small percentage of Cannabidivarin (CBDV) and Cannabigerol (CBG). The third party lab cannot detect any THC in Kazmira’s oil, and therefore it is deemed THC-Free. However, this is not the case for many CBD manufacturers who claim to produce “THC-Free” products. The legal standard for CBD oils is not ‘non-detect’, but instead under 0.3% THC by weight.

End-products (e.g., tinctures, gummies, etc.) that don’t use Kazmira oils, often use oils with detectable levels of THC. Although they are still within the legal limit at less than 0.3% THC, this could be enough to make you high. Surprisingly, CBD products with small but detectable levels of THC, even below the legal 0.3% limit, could be detected in a drug test and result in failure if enough is consumed. Poor manufacturing standards and dilution shortcuts have exacerbated this unfortunate but common occurrence as recently pointed out in an article featured in Forbes magazine.

The truth about CBD consumption is that dosage varies drastically between individuals due to inconsistent instructions from manufacturers as well as the strength desired by consumers. Some CBD research documents have reported using doses of CBD ranging from 5mg to over 1000mg in various human studies. Although CBD oils are usually consumed on the order of drops or a few milliliters, some people may take half or all of a 30mL bottle to receive their personally desired effects. Even at these high concentrations, CBD is non-toxic, and consumers are at liberty to consume however much they want of a product at a given time. However, consuming very high doses of CBD oil can be problematic because many products also contain THC even if they claim to be “THC-Free”, as we discussed before. Let’s examine the amount of THC that may be consumed from a half or full 30mL bottle of CBD oil.

Certificate of Analysis (COA) of a typical CBD Oil tincture

Figure 2: Certificate of Analysis (COA) of a typical CBD Oil tincture

The tincture examined by a third-party lab in the COA image in Figure 2 above shows 0.24wt% THC. This is representative of a typical CBD tincture on the market. This equals approximately 35.1mg of THC in a half-bottle and 70.2mg of THC in the entire bottle. That is much more than enough THC to have psychoactive effects!

How to Calculate the Total Amount of THC in a CBD Oil With Less Than 0.3wt% THC

We will use the Certificate of Analysis above in Figure 2 as a reference for a CBD oil which is under the legal THC limit at 0.24% THC by weight. The “Conc.” column, which stands for concentration in mg/mL of oil, indicates there are 2.34 milligrams of THC per milliliter of CBD oil. The difference is in the density of oil as described below.

0.24g/100mL  x 1000 = 240mg/100mL = 2.4mg/mL

Water has a density of 1g/ml and the density of oil varies between 0.93g/mL to 0.98g/mL based on the type and viscosity of the oil.

2.4mg/mL  x 97.5% =  2.34mg/mL

To calculate the amount of THC in a standard 30mL bottle of CBD oil we multiply the above by 30:

2.34mg/mL   x 30mL =  70.2mg THC

This 70.2mg of THC is under the legal limit for a 30mL bottle of CBD oil, and oils with this high of a concentration are commonly sold in today’s CBD market. This is a substantial amount of THC. Although CBD oil is commonly consumed in small quantities, where the THC may be negligible compared to the amount of CBD, large doses of this oil could deliver enough THC to produce intense psychoactivity.

Let’s start with a benchmark that is easily understood: the joint, which is a common method of consuming cannabis. The average American joint contains 300 mg of Cannabis and has an average of 16% THC concentration.

300mg  x 0.16  = 48mg THC

If an average joint contains around 48mg of THC, and it is possible to feel the psychoactive effects after only one or two puffs, it stands to reason that 70.2mg of THC in a 30mL bottle of CBD can produce extreme psychoactive effects, particularly if one is not accustomed to THC and has understandably low tolerances.

The key takeaway here is that a CBD oil tincture with less than 0.3% THC may actually have more THC than you realize. Truly ‘THC-Free’ CBD products will have ND levels of THC reported in their COA. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and verify the amount of THC in the CBD products you consume.

*Note: Bioavailability for smoking/inhalation versus sublingual may differ.

CBD Oil Tinctures with 0.3% THC Can Contain More THC than a joint! THC-Free isn't so simple!