CBD 101


CBD 101

Today, it seems like everywhere you turn, another CBD (short for: cannabidiol) product pops up. CBD is marketed in “health aids,” beverages, and even dog treats. But how can you be sure that what you’re buying is what it claims to be? To date, there is only one CBD product that has been studied in clinical trials and been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This number will likely grow over time, but here are some facts to help you better understand the CBD landscape as it stands today.


What is CBD?


CBD is one of the major cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants. It lacks the “high” associated with marijuana and is thought to have helpful properties. In fact, CBD is currently being studied in a broad range of medical conditions.

What's in CBD


How do I know what’s in a CBD product?


Knowing what you're getting with a CBD product is important. The FDA approval process requires that strict manufacturing and quality controls are in place, and product labeling is always accurate. Non–FDA approved products do not have to adhere to the same standards.


You don’t always know what you’re getting with non–FDA approved CBD products

A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tested CBD products sold online and found that:

Almost 70%

of those studied did not contain the amount of CBD stated on the package.


contained less CBD than claimed on the product labeling


contained more CBD than claimed on the product labeling


included enough unlabeled tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cause intoxication

In addition to the JAMA study, the FDA has also evaluated a range of products marketed as containing CBD and found they did not contain the levels of CBD that their labels claimed.

If you don't know what's in your product, you won't know how much to take in order to get the desired effect—or avoid undesired effects, like interactions with other medicines you may be taking.

Who regulates CBD


Who is regulating the CBD products I see in the marketplace?


People may assume that if a CBD product is for sale, that it has been tested and regulated for quality control and safety. That is not usually the case.

Consider these facts:



The 2018 Farm Bill didn't fully legalize CBD, but Congress did give the FDA the power to regulate any products containing CBD. That means the FDA can approve products that complete its rigorous process, but also regulates products on the market that do not get approved. For example, if it's discovered that claims made on non-approved product labels are not valid, the FDA can issue a notice or a fine. The law also prohibits putting CBD in food, dietary supplements, or pet food–unless they have fully gone through the FDA-approval process.

Medical marijuana

CBD products derived from cannabis (not hemp) are considered medical marijuana

  • Medical marijuana products are legal only in certain states and not FDA approved
  • Products aren't studied as rigorously as FDA-approved drugs for safety and effectiveness, nor are they regulated to ensure consistency or quality
  • Possible side effects or interactions with other medicines may not be known or listed

Hemp-derived CBD

These products are federally legal as long as they contain a specific level of THC, but state-by-state legality is unclear.

  • It is illegal to promote these products for specific medical or health uses unless the product has gone through the FDA-approval process
  • The FDA has not approved their use in food or beverages
  • These products aren’t studied for safety and effectiveness or regulated to ensure consistency or quality
  • Possible side effects or interactions with other medicines may not be known or listed


Only FDA-approved products can be legally marketed for specific medical uses.

  • FDA-approved CBD products are reviewed through a series of rigorous tests to evaluate safety, effectiveness and quality
  • FDA-approved medicines are available only by a doctor’s prescription and through pharmacies, not dispensaries. They are also covered by most health insurance plans


The FDA has not yet approved any synthetic (man-made) CBD medications. Learn more about the only FDA-approved CBD.

In the meantime, if you plan on taking a CBD product, always check with your doctor or pharmacist first. Since CBD products can interact with common medicines, your doctor may monitor you for possible side effects and interactions with medications you may already be taking.


Looking ahead



Like any medicine, CBD products should be evaluated for safety and effectiveness, and also be required to meet quality standards. The FDA is currently evaluating how to ensure products sold online or in stores are safe for consumer use.

The FDA approval of the first cannabis plant-based medicine is leading the way for further studies of CBD in other medical conditions.






Important information about the various types of CBD, FDA-approval process, and how to talk to your doctor

What The Fda Wants You To Know About Cbd

See what the FDA has to say about CBD science, safety, quality, and much more.

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Fda Warning Letter

Read all about how the FDA warned 15 different companies for selling unsafe CBD. Check out their list of companies to be on the lookout for.

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Separating Fact from Fiction in CBD

A rundown of all you need to know about CBD.

Patient/Doctor Discussion Guide

Having a meaningful conversation about CBD-based treatment with your doctor.

Understanding CBD Products Fact Sheet

FDA-approved and non–FDA approved CBD products—what's the difference?

Two Bottles
CBD Manufacturing Process Fact Sheet

See the importance of the FDA-approval process while manufacturing CBD medications.

Get the facts video

Learn what to look for when choosing a CBD product for you or your loved ones.