Member Post: Amazon’s “Hemp” Products Are Lying to You, New CBD Oracle Lab Study Finds

Member Post: Amazon’s “Hemp” Products Are Lying to You, New CBD Oracle Lab Study Finds

Amazon’s “Hemp” Products Are Lying to You (and Hurting the Industry), New CBD Oracle Lab Study Finds

TL;DR: A CBD Oracle investigation finds that 43% of hemp products sold on Amazon often don’t contain hemp at all, and are deceptively marketed to evade Amazon’s lax enforcement.

The independent investigation of the hemp market on Amazon which was commissioned by CBD Oracle has found that almost half of all products lie to customers and has revealed the challenges faced by both consumers and honest sellers on the platform. 

Along with 43% of so-called “hemp” products not containing any hemp at all, companies selling on often report their products being pulled from the storefront while those obviously lying about their contents remain up on sale. 

The market is a minefield for consumers and the main benefactors are deceptive fly-by-night companies and Amazon themselves.

A Brief Introduction to Amazon’s Hemp

If you’ve ever bought or sold hemp before, browsing the selection available on Amazon is truly bewildering. 

Products promise doses of hemp that are impossible to fit into a gummy, make obvious medical claims and reassure customers that they’re third-party lab tested while usually not making the results available on Amazon or anywhere else. There are so many red flags they start to look like wallpaper.

Amazon policy prohibits CBD unless it’s a topical product which has been specifically approved. This was established to prevent unreliable or illegal products from making it onto the site, but the consequence has been just the opposite. Instead, sellers simply don’t mention the word “CBD” anywhere on the product page, and this provides a smoke-screen to companies hoping to sell the expectation of CBD while actually offering nothing of the sort.

“Hemp” on Amazon is not a description, but a purposefully vague euphemism.

Testing the Hemp Sold on Amazon

CBD Oracle purchased 56 of the most popular hemp products on Amazon and sent them to InfiniteCAL for testing. The main results show the impact of the current policies on the platform.

  • 30% of products contained CBD. Although these products violate Amazon policy, they at least offer customers what the listings imply in a basic sense.
  • 62.5% of products contained no cannabinoids at all. Given that the majority of products explicitly promised some amount of “hemp” in milligrams, these products are misleading at best.
  • 43% of products contained no hemp at all, as verified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) testing. Every single product in the study promised “hemp,” but even if they meant hemp seed oil, these 43% are still blatantly deceiving customers.
  • 11% of products tested positive for THC, with three products having huge quantities of delta-8 THC. The maximum dose per gummy was 76 mg THC.
  • 96% of products did not provide an accurate dosage to customers. This means that the measured dosage doesn’t fall within 10% of what they advertised.

The Misleading Marketing of Amazon’s Hemp

The lab results show that the hemp sold on Amazon doesn’t meet the expected standard of CBD and hemp products in the modern day. However, customers on Amazon are less likely to be engaged with the industry and probably have less of an idea of what is expected of any hemp product. Combined with some careful marketing, this makes the average Amazon hemp buyer way more likely to pick up an unreliable product.

CBD Oracle’s analysis of the marketing of Amazon hemp reveals many serious problems with the market and the claims sellers make:

  • 52% of products are sold based on unapproved medical claims, often surrounding pain, stress or anxiety relief.
  • 95% of products do not provide a third-party lab report to consumers anywhere online, and none of them are shown on Amazon.
  • Customer reviews were unreliable in about half of cases. Mozilla’s FakeSpot rated 48% of products D or lower for overall reliability.
  • There was no reliable, direct method to communicate with the sellers behind 89% of products. 28 products were identified as breaking the INFORM Consumers Act.
  • Many products make claims which are literally impossible (e.g. 7.7 pounds of “hemp” in a 0.8 pound package), but are not removed when reported to Amazon.

How Amazon’s Hemp Impacts the Wider Industry

Amazon’s hemp market is not only bad for the customers who choose to make purchases through the retailer; it also threatens the perception of the industry at large.

Andrew Livingston, Director of Economics & Research at Vicente, commented to CBD Oracle that:

“One, these products drive consumer[s] away from the entire hemp supplement category for fear that the entire market cannot be trusted or is not properly regulated. This means legitimate businesses with great products that benefit consumers lose out. Second, problematically labeled and branded hemp products indicate to regulators and public officials that the entire category needs more robust and stringent restrictions.”

In short, even though these products come from unknown companies and aren’t widely regarded in the hemp industry, their careless actions threaten to drag the whole industry through the mud with them.  

Conclusion: How Amazon Can Solve the Problem

Amazon’s hemp problem is created by a lack of enforcement and a policy which incentivizes companies that lie about their products. In line with this, there are two avenues for a solution. 

Firstly, Amazon could simply devote more resources to enforcing their current policy. 

Alternatively, and more realistically, they could acknowledge that CBD is sold on their platform, and instead rectify their policy. By allowing CBD products if they are backed up with a certificate of analysis by an accredited third-party lab, honest manufacturers would be able to compete on a level playing field, and virtually all of the products in this analysis would have to prove their claims or be removed from sale.

One thing is certain: the status quo on Amazon is harmful to both consumers and the industry, and it has to stop.

The full dataset from the analysis is available in this spreadsheet. You can download a summary of the report in PDF here.

About the author: 

Lee Johnson is the senior editor at CBD Oracle, and has been covering science, vaping and cannabis for over a decade. He focuses on research-driven deep dives into topics ranging from medical uses for CBD to industry and user statistics, as well as general guides and explainers for consumers.

CBD Oracle is a consumer research company working to improve the safety and transparency of cannabis and hemp products, producing in-depth research pieces on cannabis and cannabinoids, along with analysis of social and legal issues.

Author & Company Information

Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is the senior editor at CBD Oracle, and has been covering science, vaping and cannabis for over 10 years. He has a MS in Theoretical Physics from Uppsala University. At CBD Oracle, he focuses on research-driven deep dives into topics ranging from medical uses for CBD to industry and user statistics, as well as general guides and explainers for consumers. Along with his work at CBD Oracle, he covers the science and politics surrounding vaping, covering stories such as a major premium vape brand finding itself at the center of the “popcorn lung” scandal and the EVALI outbreak of 2019. His vaping-related writing has appeared on other sites including Vaping360 and The Ashtray Blog, as well as in a New York Times op-ed. Alongside his more scientific and political work, he is also a vaper (having quit smoking with an early e-cigarette in 2012) who casually uses both CBD and cannabis. He is a passionate advocate of all three, and supports the freedom of consumers to choose while stressing the importance of accurate and honest information about the often-contentious topics. He is originally from the UK and is currently living in Sweden.

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