CBD is a dicey subject because of laws relating to the legality and sale of products. This extends to most retailers as no regulation exists federally, and is not always followed by states. As an example of the growing issues in the industry, well-known company Curaleaf, just had to pay out as a result of lawsuits about tainted CBD products.
Curaleaf and its tainted CBD products highlight a major regulation issue in the legal cannabis industry, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t good products, just that consumers must do their due diligence. This is also true of the cannabinoids market which contains products like delta-8 THC, THCV, and HHC. Remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter all the latest news and industry stories, as well as exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
What’s the news?
The Massachusetts-based company Curaleaf, which also operates out of facilities in Oregon and as well as being on the Canadian stock exchange as CURA, found itself in hot water this year with 10 lawsuits waged against it for selling tainted CBD products. How were they tainted? They contained a large dose of THC, which was not listed on the packaging, and not a part of the marketing for the products.
The products in question are Curaleaf’s Select brand CBD Wellness Drops, which the company says workers in a Portland facility managed to confuse with THC drops. The CBD drops are made from hemp, and are not supposed to have THC in them, or at the very least, not in the large quantity that apparently made it in.
Curaleaf paid out $50,000 to settle a case in September, brought on by Ayuba Agbonkhese, an Idaho resident who claimed he ended up in an emergency room after ingesting the drops without knowing their THC content. Agbonkhese specifically wanted the public to know all the terms of this deal, in order to bring more awareness to this tainted products problem. He is, in fact, quite correct about the size of the problem, and the need for more attention on it. In his words:
“It was important for me to make sure that the company, as well as other companies like this, become more accountable. I want a safer community. That is my main reason for doing this in this way… I want them to be better and I want the industry to be better.” Apparently, though Curaleaf did pay out, it did not see fit to formally apologize.
Agbonkhese is not the only person to have an issue. At least four others had to be treated in an emergency room after using the same tainted CBD products. Agbonkhese’s case was the only one where the terms were made public, but nine other cases total have been settled by Curaleaf for its tainted CBD products.
Is that it?
Nope. Three other cases remain open, including a wrongful death suit. Honestly, while Curaleaf represents a huge issue in the CBD industry, the wrongful death case does seem to be a stretch, and also likely representative of opportunism for a payout. In that particular case, the person died weeks after ingesting the drops, and was otherwise sick, making the claim not only a bit silly, but unwise considering it dilutes what are actual and legitimate claims.
The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) is currently investigating Curaleaf. Curaleaf acquired Cura Cannabis (Select), in 2019, and has sold hundreds of tainted CBD products throughout Oregon in the past year. It should be mentioned, that while an unexpected THC overdose is certainly not fun, and in these cases, 100% unexpected, it is also non-lethal. But the whole idea of tainted CBD products begs the question of whether there could be other issues with Curaleaf’s products, and similar products on the market.
Curaleaf did recall both the products in question, the Select CBD Wellness Drops, and the high-THC drops. But this happened because they were forced to by Oregon regulators. The OLCC has been investigating the situation since that time, as it represents the first time this has really become a large news story.
While Curaleaf has said very little about the settlements, it has stated that the cause of these issues was ‘human error’, and that processes have been updated as a result of the incidences. The company has not stated whether anyone was held accountable, or how these mistakes were actually made. As it was an ongoing issue with this company that spanned months of time, these questions are very relevant, along with what else could be wrong with these products if they haven’t gone through the testing they were supposed to.
The problem with the CBD industry
The main issue with the CBD industry at large, is that it’s not federally legal, and therefore not federally regulated. The reason CBD is technically illegal for food, as a supplement, or a non-prescription medicine, is that CBD is already the active ingredient of an approved pharmaceutical medication (Epidiolex), and under US law, once a compound is an active ingredient in an approved medication, it can no longer be marketed as a dietary supplement, or be used in food products. Therefore the CBD industry in the US at large (with a few exceptions), isn’t legal, and products on the market are not being regulated for what is in them.
However, this doesn’t actually apply to Oregon as a legalized state. Since Oregon set laws counter to the US federal government, though it is breaking federal law with these sales, it’s legal due to state laws. And that means CBD sales are perfectly legal in Oregon, and able to be regulated!
There is a lot that’s said about the growing cannabinoids industry in the US, which includes CBD as well as minor cannabinoids like delta-8 THC, THCV, and HHC. There is increasing wariness of the industry, and for good reason, as it operates 100% as an unregulated black market, selling products outside of legal dispensaries, offering illegal merchandise online, and creating black market testing facilities to give the illusion of regulation, though these have repeatedly shown to be scams.
But once again, Oregon is a legalized state, so these issues, though still existent since synthetics are not legalized in the state, at least shouldn’t apply to the CBD industry. And yet, we can see they clearly do. If Curaleaf had this ongoing issue for months, then whatever product testing it was supposed to be doing that whole time, obviously wasn’t being done at all. If this is the best we can expect out of a legal company, it really doesn’t imply anything good about any delta-8 company, or any other company not working within legal parameters.
What this means is that there are substantial problems with getting things done properly in the cannabis industry. Whether this is because companies don’t have the money to pay out to testing facilities, whether bribes are being made to pass products illegally, or if this simply represents greed by large companies (we see this literally all the time), is hard to say. But when the legit industry starts looking like the black market, you know there’s definitely a problem.
What this means for buyers
While this problem could be specific to Curaleaf, nothing about this industry indicates it is, and if a bigger company with means isn’t going about things properly, what can we realistically expect of the rest? On the other hand, big corporations are sometimes known for being a lot dirtier in their practices than smaller mom and pops. Perhaps it indicates more a showing of the general corporate attitude of not caring about consumers, let alone their own workers, than an actual inability to create decent products consistently.
This undoubtedly creates a big issue for users, when what are seen as legit companies cannot be trusted. Ordinarily I say ‘know your brands’ and perhaps this is still the best answer, but it’s not a great one. With newer industries, after all, the idea of knowing a brand is limited to only the recent future, and sometimes, like with CBD products, without any history of other products to know them by. As such, the idea of knowing your brands is not as easy as it might be when buying other products with more established brands.
It does mean that customers are now really put to the task of doing due diligence. Especially if they don’t want to solely depend on state regulators to decide if a company is safe, and if its doing everything it’s supposed to be doing to ensure safe products, that are what they say they are.
Truth is, I expect there to be more of these cases. The weed industry is a dirty place these days, way dirtier than when it was a 100% illegal industry. So far, legalizations have done nothing but get us overpriced dispensaries, massive fakes markets, and adulterated products. If not for the fact that it might be slightly harder to get arrested in some places, not much really good has been accomplished by all this, with Curaleaf standing as a beacon to this sentiment.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.