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Meds and you

07 November 2019

Get to know your CBD: 6 things to bear in mind to avoid buying a toxic or illegal product

With the explosion of CBD products on the market, SAPS and SAHPRA warn that it’s important you assess the quality and legality of the product when buying. Here are some insights from experts in the field.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from dagga, has taken off in South Africa since its legalisation in May this year with, among others, pharmaceutical stores Clicks and Dis-Chem rolling out the oil. (Prices start at R295, Business Insider reported last month.)

But for most people, the concept is still new, and what you don’t know can hurt you. When it comes to CBD oils, there are many to choose from, including low quality ones. And very importantly, you need to ascertain whether what you're buying is legal. 

Buying legal CBD

In a media statement by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS), the following warrants special attention:

12-month exclusion notice

According to the statement, products with low concentrations of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive substance that gives one a “high” – are legal, based on the 12-month exclusion notice published by the health minister in May this year.

This means that CBD-containing preparations for medicinal use are allowed to be sold when they contain a maximum daily dose of 20 mg of CBD with an accepted low-risk claim or health claims, and don't refer to any specific disease. 

The products cannot contain more than 0,1 % of THC when in a form that is not suitable for ingestion, smoking or inhaling purposes. CBD-containing processed products are legal when the naturally occurring quantities of CBD and THC contained in the product do not exceed 0,0075 % and 0,001 % of CBD and THC respectively.

Any CBD-containing products that are outside the parameters of the exclusion notice are subject to the provisions of the Schedules and registration as a medicine.

Marketing of illegal products

Although the sale of CBD oils has been legalised, there are hundreds of products being sold to the public, and SAPS warns that the establishment of illegal dispensaries/outlets, online sites and social media platforms which are marketing and selling cannabis and cannabis-related products to the public remain illegal, as these are in contravention of the act and the exclusion notice.

How does one identify legal CBD?

Momeena Omarjee from SAHPRA told VOC:

“In terms of the exclusion notice, the CBD-containing preparations, or medicines, are allowed a maximum daily dose of 20mg per day, and it can make a general health awareness claim.

“As soon as someone is making a medicinal or therapeutic claim to treat or cure a specific disease or symptoms, those need to be registered with SAHPRA, so stay away from products making therapeutic claims that aren’t registered with SAHPRA.” 

The statement also points out that SAPS is mandated to and will act, not only against businesses that sell cannabis illegally, but also against the customers who buy these products. 

When assessing the quality, or looking to buy the best quality CBD Hemp Oil, Dr Alison Richardson, neurologist and spokesperson for Oil Science – a company that specialises in the supply of premium CBD products – also cautions that knowing your source is key, and that you should remember the following:

There are different types of CBD out there

Since CBD was removed from South Africa's list of highly-controlled drugs, there has been an influx of retailers stocking various CBD products. However, CBD oil comes in varying degrees of strength and quality.

Although you can find a lot of variations cheaply, they’ll be of lower quality and won’t really offer therapeutic benefits, which is essentially what you’re looking for. Ensure that the product you’re buying is cultivated naturally, contains no THC and is 100% organic and certified.

There are also two types of CBD oil that vary in colour:

Raw: the oil is black or dark green in appearance since it has been extracted from raw hemp material, with no further purification process implemented. This type will contain plant matter, and varying amounts of THC and chlorophyll.

Filtered: the oil is a light golden or amber colour because it has undergone decarboxylation and a filtering process where parts of the plant that were left over from the initial extraction process are removed.

Know your hemp from marijuana

Since hemp and cannabis come from the same plant, many people still confuse hemp with its narcotic cousin. But hemp contains higher levels of CBD and lower levels of the psychoactive element THC (that makes you “high”) than marijuana.

Check the label

Consumers need to look out for certified products and companies that are transparent about what goes into their products. Reputable CBD retailers use and publish Certificates of Analysis (COA) that will tell you the quality of the CBD source and list important information such as its potency and solvent levels.

The certification ensures that, through analysis, the natural integrity of the products is maintained. Check the labels and read the instructions carefully, as the dosages can have different strengths.

If the product doesn’t contain a COA, give them a miss, as you could end up buying a product that’s fraudulent or even toxic.

If you’ve noticed unregistered CBD items, SAHPRA and SAPS urge the public to make them aware of the products that contravene the act (and are illegal). 

You can download the MySAPS App on any iPhone or android to have easy access to the police. You can also provide any information relating to the sale of cannabis to the SAPS through the SAPS Crime Stop number 086 00 10111. Callers may remain anonymous and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

Image: iStock