CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Drive anywhere in the Charlotte area, and you'll be sure to see signs for CBD, or cannabidiol.
It comes from hemp or marijuana plants but doesn't get you high. And users say it helps with all sorts of problems.
“I've used it for anxiety, and I’ve used it for muscle aches,” Stephanie Curran said.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn't oversee the products, so what's on the label may not be what you're getting. It's basically an honor system.
“You would want to make sure what you are putting on the bottle is legitimate. That's what you’re paying for,” Curran said.
But is it?
Channel 9 went to five different stores all over town and bought five bottles of CBD, ranging in price from $12 to $60.
Then we categorized them and shipped them off to a lab in Durham.
After several days, we got our results. The lab, Avazym, is the same one where other companies and law enforcement agencies from across the country send drugs to be tested.
“We usually get several hundred samples a day,” said Dr. Volker Bornemann, the founder and CEO of Avazym.
The first of our samples tested, Kush, was purchased at One Stop Express on Idlewild Road. The claim? 150 milligrams of CBD. The lab found 120 milligrams, which is 20% less.
Next was Reliva. We got it at a gas station on North Tryon Street. The label claims it contains 250 milligrams of CBD, but the lab found about 230 milligrams. The label said it contained zero THC, which is what gives users a high with marijuana, but the lab found trace amounts.
“If you consume this bottle, you could very well flunk a drug test,” Bornemann said.
A bottle of Charlotte’s Web purchased at Infinity’s End in University City claimed 7 milligrams in every drop, or 210 milligrams in the bottle. The lab found the amount was actually a little higher, at 228 milligrams and also found it had trace amounts of THC.
We picked up the most expensive of the bunch at Vigor in South End. It boasted 750 milligrams of CBD, but the lab found about 960 milligrams.
“So, you could overdose on this?” Channel 9’s John Paul asked. “Some people could. Some people could,” Bornemann said.
That could make you sick. In fact, poison control has handled more than 1,200 cases involving CBD just this year.
Channel 9 also tested Lazarus, which was bought at Electrik Avenew in NoDa. The label said it had 225 milligrams of CBD. The lab found 174 milligrams and also found THC.
When we went back to the shop, the owner was surprised and said he would talk to the manufacturer.
“At the moment, this whole industry is pretty much self-regulated,” Bornemann said. “There is no one watching over their shoulder yet.”
While the lab director said most of our samples were acceptable, some others he's tested were total fakes.
“The bottle says it contains 1,000 milligrams, and we didn't find a single milligram in there,” Bornemann said. “If people use these products to self-treat, there can be unexpected side effects.”
“That’s a rip-off. That’s blatant lying, just ripping people off,” Curran said.
Curran said she trusts the CBD she buys but wants there to be more oversight to make sure what’s on the label isn't different from what's inside.
Channel 9 found the FDA has stepped in a few times. The agency has sent letters to a few dozen companies after the CBD on the label didn't match what was in the bottle. You can find those letters here.
Cox Media Group