Understanding Cannabis Certifications and Claims

Legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp products

Improving trust and transparency in the legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp industry begins with developing a shared understanding of what certain claims and certifications mean.

According to a recent study, 51% of Americans find claims and certifications to be important when making purchase decisions, yet they struggle to trust the sources of many claims or understand what different certifications mean.

At Qredible®, we’re working to increase trust and transparency in the legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp industry. As a part of that commitment, we’ve compiled a list of claims and certifications used in cannabis product messaging.

Keep reading to learn more about what can and cannot be said in legalized cannabis product messaging, and to learn about the most common certifying and regulatory bodies in the U.S. medical and legalized cannabis industry.

Health Claims in Legalized Cannabis, Hemp, and CBD Product Messaging

Ultimately, as cannabis is still considered a schedule 1 substance, the claims that businesses are legally allowed to make generally vary by state. 

On the federal level, however, it is illegal to make health claims about legalized cannabis, CBD, or hemp products.

Some common health claims that are not allowed in cannabis marketing include claims that suggest a product can:

  • Cure, lessen, or relieve any physical disease or illness
  • Cure, lessen, or relieve any mental health condition
  • Alleviate pain, physical disease symptoms, or mental health symptoms
  • Prevent mental or physical disease or illness

Common ways companies make health claims include:

  • Labeling a product as “anti-” something (anti-inflammatory, for example)
  • Suggesting usage for specific conditions
  • Naming physical or mental illness in the product labeling or marketing messaging

The reason that legalized cannabis products are not allowed to make medical claims is that the FDA requires all products intended to address disease to be classified as pharmaceutical drugs. These drugs and supplements are subject to the most stringent regulation of any ingestible substance. 

Cannabis, CBD, and hemp are not yet approved by the FDA as drugs. As such, there are no recommended dosages, proper use guidelines, or information about potential side effects and interactions with other FDA-approved substances.

Certifying Bodies for Legalized Cannabis, Hemp, and CBD Products

There are many certifying organizations, regulatory bodies, and compliance enforcement initiatives that serve businesses and consumers in the legalized cannabis industry. Due to their public reputation, many certifications and designations can be used by businesses in marketing messaging to increase trust and establish authority.  

The following list contains some of the most popular certifying and regulatory agencies operating in the industry.

The USDA

The USDA is a government agency that regulates and manages federal rules surrounding agriculture and natural resources. 

Cannabis growers who meet the USDA standards for organic can apply for a USDA Organic certification that demonstrates their commitment to: 

  • Promoting ecological balance
  • Preserving water quality
  • Fostering resource cycling 
  • Improving soil quality 
  • Improving biodiversity
  • Limiting synthetic materials

In order to determine eligibility, a USDA certifying agent must confirm a business follows all USDA organic regulations. They must also ensure the company is not using prohibited methods or substances at any stage in its production process. 

Food and Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the federal regulatory body for all ingestible substances available for public consumption. Their mission is to protect public health by limiting the risk of contaminants, toxins, and product misuse. 

Currently, the FDA has only approved a limited number of cannabis-derived products. They are as follows: 

  • Epidiolex (cannabidiol)
  • Marinol (dronabinol)
  • Syndros (dronabinol)
  • Cesamet (nabilone)

These products are approved for medical use only and require a prescription from a licensed health practitioner. Presently, there is no federally approved policy for recreational or medical cannabis. 

However, the FDA has recently hired Norman Birenbaum as a senior public health adviser for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As the former head of marijuana programs in Rhode Island and New York, it is expected that more guidance will be forthcoming as Birenbaum will be working with the Center for Regulatory Programs on projects involving cannabis research and marijuana regulation.

U.S. Hemp Authority

The U.S. Hemp Authority is a certifying organization that enforces high production standards, safe commerce practices, and transparency in the legalized cannabis industry.

To obtain a U.S. Hemp Authority Certification, a company must prove compliance with strict regulatory standards. Applicants are required to undergo a third-party audit of their facilities and products.

NIHC ASTM Program

The National Industrial Hemp Council’s Verify Program focuses on ensuring compliance with testing and labeling standards for cannabis, hemp, and cannabidiol (CBD) products. 

The program was announced in November of 2021. Since then, the council has been developing its own testing standards and labeling protocols. The goal of the Verify Program is to increase consumer trust, ensure transparency, and establish the hemp industry as reliable and trustworthy.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is a quality designation that can be used in any enterprise of any size, location, or industry. It is used to demonstrate a company’s success in its commitment to providing products that comply with regulatory requirements and consistently satisfy customers.

In order to obtain an ISO 9001 certification, a company must demonstrate:

  • A focus on customer satisfaction
  • Management intention and motivation
  • Responsible processes
  • Commitment to continuous improvement

An ISO 9001 certification represents customer satisfaction and quality products or services. 

State Health Departments

Each state with medical and/or recreational cannabis regulations has a governmental body overseeing the quality control processes. 

Some states have multiple agencies designated to oversee specific areas of the industry, whereas other states place cannabis, CBD, and hemp under the jurisdiction of their state Food and Agriculture Department or Department of Health.

Cannabis Safety and Quality

The Cannabis Safety & Quality (CSQ) Standards provide a framework for companies to demonstrate their commitment to cannabis and cannabis-infused product excellence. The standards were informed by the ISO and the Global Food Safety Initiative

To become certified, companies must prove the following processes adhere to best practices:

  • Growing and cultivation
  • Manufacturing and extraction
  • Food and beverage manufacturing and infusion
  • Cannabis dietary supplement manufacturing

Each of these processes has a different set of requirements.

GMP

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) is a certification process conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for ensuring consistency and quality in the manufacturing of cannabis and other products.

Companies that earn GMP certifications must submit to an audit of the following information:

  • Testing of raw materials
  • Testing processes
  • Facilities, equipment, and personnel
  • Confirmation of SOPs
  • Testing of the effectiveness of products

Qredible®: Validating and Verifying Legalized Cannabis, CBD, and Hemp Claims

There are many regulatory and certifying organizations working hard to ensure a safer and more trustworthy industry for everyone. 

While Qredible is not a compliance enforcement initiative or regulatory body, we are proud to support and promote the work that these organizations do by validating and verifying claims, certifications, licenses, registrations, and other documentation.

In doing so, we also support companies that are committed to ensuring the quality, safety, and effectiveness of their products. We do this by distinguishing them from competitors that make claims without putting in the effort to earn or substantiate them. 

Being committed to quality and extending the extra resources to become certified and ensure best practices in safety and quality is extremely important to gain trust. This is why we believe so strongly in validation and verification. 

It simply is not fair, nor is it safe for a company to misrepresent these certifications. Any company that is Q-verified means that all of its badging and certifications have been vetted and verified as true!  

Our mission is to facilitate and foster safer commerce that will result in increased trust in the entire industry.

Qredible is the only digital registry of verified and validated legalized cannabis, hemp, and CBD brands. Want to be in Qredible? Get started today. 

Michael Boone

Michael Boone

Michael is the VP of Compliance here at Qredible.

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