Is CBD Oil Worth The Price?
CBD has become an established legal substance and we can now find it in almost anything that is edible, drinkable, or spreadable. However, a lot of CBD consumers are finding it more expensive than expected and the big question arises: is CBD oil worth the price?
Since a CBD oil bottle can often last under a month—depending on frequency of consumption, why is CBD so expensive? Is the cost justified? And will CBD prices go down in the future?
The answer to both questions is, yes. This article explains why.
Why is CBD so expensive?
Consumers were recently aghast to hear of the notorious case of a high-street pharmacy CBD product retailing for £90 that was tested and found to contain no CBD at all. But this is the exception; not the rule.
While it’s true that a few CBD manufacturers have been asking for exorbitant prices for their products, what drives up the price has little to do with corporate greed. The CBD industry faces high costs linked to farming, the manufacturing process, testing, and the cost of doing business due to the unclear legal framework governing CBD.
Let’s take a look at why CBD products are relatively expensive and whether these costs will diminish as hemp production expands and other contingent expenses decrease.
Hemp production in the UK
CBD is exclusively produced from the flowers of industrial hemp plants.
Growing hemp is relatively easy, as it is a hardy plant with few requirements. Unlike marijuana, which is grown in indoors controlled environments, hemp grows outdoors. So, the UK has plenty of places where industrial hemp can be grown.
However, while growing hemp is simple enough, it requires cumbersome licensing—a factor that increases production costs. Hemp growers need to apply to the Home Office to get a license. This alone costs £580 at the time of writing. But that’s not the biggest problem facing farmers.
Crucially, UK hemp farmers are not allowed to harvest the hemp flowers but only the stalks and seeds. All UK hemp growers are required to destroy the hemp flowers.
Due to this limitation, UK hemp growers can produce hemp for ropes, textiles, and other uses—but not for CBD. All CBD used in British manufacturing facilities is, therefore, imported. This legal hurdle greatly increases the cost of the primary material—hemp flowers. The cost is then passed on to the final product that ultimately made us raise the question “is CBD oil worth the price?”.
Increased costs for growing hemp
Most UK CBD producers import hemp from Europe, the United States, or Australia. In all these countries, hemp growers are required to follow particular rules and regulations. They have to apply for costly licenses that need to be renewed regularly.
Also, growers are subject to inspections to confirm they are growing hemp rather than marijuana. Due to the unique legal status of cannabis, hemp growers are under increased and expensive scrutiny compared to other crops.
All these limitations and regulations add to the final product cost.
CBD consumption was legalised recently in many countries. In the United States, it was only in December 2018 that CBD became legal across all states. While CBD has been legal in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 2017, it is only in the last few years that CBD as a wellness product has acquired such celebrity.
Hemp supply is only now catching up with hemp demand.
At first, many assumed that CBD was just another fad. When it became clear that people were asking for more CBD products and that this demand could be sustained, growers opted for growing hemp in their fields.
Until now, however, supply has been lower than demand. This has increased the cost of hemp.
In the future, hemp supply should match the demand, which would lower the costs.
Once the hemp flowers have been picked and collected, they need to go through an extraction process that will deliver the CBD locked in the flowers.
First, the flowers are decorticated from their outer layers. This task involves expensive equipment. The flowers are then dried and put through the extraction process to obtain the CBD oil.
There are two methods of extraction: ethanol and CO2. While ethanol is a relatively cheap and fast extraction method, CO2 is considered the gold standard of the industry because it gives a better and more potent product.
However, CO2 extraction is more expensive than ethanol. It requires expensive machinery and a controlled environment run by trained and experienced personnel.
The initial extraction is of cannabidiolic acid (CBDa), which is put through a decarboxylation process to extract the CBD. At this stage, the CBD contains the cannabinoid alongside other useful substances such as terpenes, other cannabinoids, and waxes.
If we want the final product to contain only CBD without any THC or any other cannabinoid, an extra set of equipment is needed to winterize the product and remove all the unwanted substances.
All these machines and equipment are expensive to buy, operate, and repair. These costs add up considerably and are passed on to the final product.
CBD testing for purity
Due to the unique nature of CBD, its manufacturers and producers need to undergo stringent testing to make sure their products are pure, potent, and clean.
Testing batches of CBD oil is an expensive endeavour, but doing them can make CBD oil worth the price.
The CBD is tested for the potency of the cannabinoid, the existence of other cannabinoids, and their percentages as well as terpenes. Similarly, the final product needs to be tested for heavy metals, bacteria, fungi, herbicides, and pesticides.
Hemp is famous for its phytoremedial properties—the ability to absorb heavy metals from the soil.
Indeed, in many countries, hemp is specifically used to clean soils from metals and herbicides.
Some CBD producers opt to purchase organic hemp, to ensure that their final product does not contain any harmful substances. But organic hemp is more expensive. And even then, CBD still needs to be tested, as pollutants may enter the final product during the production phase.
CBD testing for THC
THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis—the cannabinoid responsible for the feeling of “high.” To be legal in the UK, CBD products must contain under 0.2% THC. This means extra testing—which, again, raises costs.
For CBD products that are THC-free, testing must be particularly rigorous to ensure that no traces of THC are found in the final product. CBD consumers who have to be drug-tested for their work need to be positive that the CBD they are consuming is completely and absolutely THC-free. Otherwise, the producer is liable and could face a lawsuit.
That is why CBD products often carry a certificate of analysis (COA). While a certificate of analysis will help users feel safer in knowing the exact composition of the CBD products they are using, they come at a cost.
CBD consumers ought to choose CBD producers who have invested in stringent testing because it means they are serious business people devoted to their work. But this also means buying a more expensive product.
Regulatory costs of CBD
Apart from the production costs mentioned above, CBD manufacturers have to face other expenses.
Due to the nature of their work, CBD producers need to employ lawyers and compliance officers on a permanent basis to make sure they are compliant with the specific rules and regulations defined by government authorities.
Also, CBD, although technically legal, carries some regulatory uncertainty that makes it a higher-risk business. As a result, banks and insurance companies are often reluctant to work with CBD producers.
Banks and insurance companies either charge higher premiums for CBD manufacturers or offer limited services. That is why some CBD producers cannot charge credit cards on their e-shops or face higher charges for credit and debit card users. Again, these costs increase the final price.
Medical claims of CBD
CBD producers may not make any medical claims about their products. The way the law has been written, CBD products in the UK are sold as wellness products or health supplements. Manufacturers may not make any medical claims. Any product that even hints at a medical claim risks immediately being pulled off the shelf.
Since CBD manufacturers can see their products withdrawn from the market if their advertising or promotion alludes to a medical claim, many shops are reluctant to carry their products. The ones that do, need extra incentives in the form of insurance or higher profits that will justify the risk.
The increased risks that CBD producers and distributors face regarding the distribution of CBD products are passed on to the final product in the form of extra costs.
How to choose CBD oil
People wishing to take CBD should be careful when choosing a CBD product. Potentially, some products can make CBD oil worth the price.
Prospective consumers should be aware of the difference between CBD oil and hemp seed oil. Some producers market their hemp seed oil as cheap CBD oil, mainly because hemp seed oil is much cheaper and easier to make than CBD oil. However, hemp seed oil contains no CBD. It is excellent as a moisturizer or in food but has no cannabinoids.
Bottles of CBD oil can also be confusing. There are many variables that define the CBD content in a CBD oil bottle. The size of the bottle and the potency of the CBD oil are the main variables. A 30 ml bottle of 150 mg of CBD (in total content) is much more potent than a 30 ml bottle of 100 mg of CBD (in total content). Remember that CBD oil bottles give the total content of CBD for the whole bottle.
Finally, a low price often suggests lower quality. In general, a higher price implies a better CBD product, as its producers will use better extraction methods and have a certificate of analysis. Maybe all these measures do make CBD oil worth the price.
Organic hemp, in particular, is more expensive than regular hemp, hence the higher price for organic CBD. But the extra cost is justified by the smaller risk of consuming any pesticides and pollutants along with your CBD.
Will CBD prices go down?
Some factors that increase the price of CBD will continue to do so. For example, stringent testing as proved by a certificate of analysis may drive costs up but will also separate trustworthy, dependable CBD manufacturers from dishonest ones. And production will require expensive, specialized equipment.
Other costs can drop significantly.
With more farmers worldwide growing industrial hemp, supply should meet demand in the near future. This will help lower the cost of CBD.
However, the most important factor that drives up costs in the UK is the unclear legal status of CBD. Better legislation will drive costs down in a number of ways.
It will encourage production, especially if the British government opens up hemp cultivation, allowing for the use of the hemp flowers which are now discarded.
It will reduce the costs of doing business with distributors, banks, and insurance companies
And it will allow more farmers to get involved with hemp farming and more CBD processing factories to emerge. This will lead to increased competition, and competition helps lower costs.
Public pressure on the matter has been increasing along with demand for CBD. And this means that better legislation should be made available in the future.
When that happens, expect lower prices for CBD products, hence making CBD oil worth the price.