The CBD industry is a new and burgeoning industry with roots in the more established cannabis industry; sharing similar processing equipment, supply chains, finished goods and retail opportunities. Many of the jargon or industry terminology in CBD is taken directly from the THC industry with one notable exception, the niche we know of as THC-free products. This unique area of the CBD world is driven mainly by legal, moral, or personal considerations.
Legal Drivers of THC Free Products
The legal drivers of THC free products concern retailers worried about the legal limit of THC in consumer products as well as the requirements for some employers for the absence of THC in their employees. Legal drivers come with declared limits that are objective and quantitative. The moral and personal considerations deal more with not wanting to ingest psychoactive compounds like THC and in that case there are no hard numbers, it is more subjective and qualitative.
So where does this leave the stakeholders in this niche of the CBD economy? There are retail customers in this space who want to purchase safe and reliable THC free products, though these buyers may be misled as to what that actually means as we will see. We have processors, manufacturers and brokers looking to meet this demand with a variety of products featuring nebulous names and wide ranging specifications for THC levels.
What Does THC Free Mean?
The industry as a whole has so far settled on the terms Broad Spectrum distillate or THC free distillate to describe the intermediate distillate products used to make the retail edibles, tinctures, and topicals which have little to no detectable THC. This term “detectable” is where we can start to make concrete definitions and place some context around the discussion of what is a “THC-free” product and why definitions matter.
For context, it is important to realize that there is no such thing as THC Free. THC is removed from hemp derived material using either physically or chemically, physical separations are achieved through chromatography or distillation and chemical conversion of THC into other cannabinoids is achieved using heat and sometimes catalysts. These processes are effective but there is always some amount of THC left, even if it is 1 part per million (1ppm, 0.0001%) there is still THC present. The fact that there is always THC present means that all you can ever guarantee is that a product does not have THC present above a certain detection limit.
Limit of Detection for THC
The detectable amount of any substance is determined by the Limit of Detection (LOD) for a given instrument and/ or method and is derived empirically. This LOD changes depending on the instrument being used, the sample processing method, and can vary between two identical instruments in the same laboratory nevermind variability between different labs.
Since the LOD is so variable between labs and methodologies a product tested at one lab can be “Non-detectable” and then test as detectable at another lab. The notion by retail consumers, shop owners, or finished goods manufacturers new to the CBD world that “Non-detectable” is something concrete and standardized is a reality that we as an industry will have to work hard to address.
We here at Abundant Labs strive to educate our customers and clients on what it means to be non-detectable and really try to understand the needs of our customers. Some manufacturers want to buy TFree THC distillate, while what they really want is to ensure that their finished retail products are guaranteed nondetectable. If you look at the tables below, you can see that a broad spectrum distillate with THC at 0.1% (detectable at any lab) will produce a product that is non-detectable at most labs.