If you’ve spent any time shopping for CBD, the following question has certainly crossed your mind at some point.
Why is CBD oil so expensive?
Several issues affect CBD’s current retail prices, but most relate to the simple fact that hemp farming, processing, and use in consumer goods is a new industry in the United States.
To illustrate that point, the 2018 Farm Bill, which fully legalized industrial hemp as a cash crop, was signed late in that year. That means the law only took effect in earnest during the 2019 growing season.
But there’s a lot to unpack. Let’s dive in, shall we?
1. Hemp Presents Challenges for Farmers
To answer the question of why is CBD oil so expensive, we must first look at current farming practices.
Hemp production presents challenges that many farmers haven’t faced before, especially for those who made the switch from food crops like vegetables and fruits.
Hemp requires a lot of manual work and inspection during growth. For instance, when hemp plants produce more than the legally allotted amount of THC, the compound in marijuana that causes users to feel intoxicating effects, those plants must be destroyed. Hemp farmers must constantly monitor the situation to prevent catastrophic crop loss.
Harvesting hemp presents another issue. Workers can harvest the plants with a combine, but only farmers who produce grains typically own them out of necessity. If a farm previously produced strawberries or tomatoes, the farmers may not own such a machine.
And combine harvesters are often prohibitively expensive for use on a new crop. As a result, many hemp farmers harvest their crop manually.
Finally, the hemp must go through a drying process, which can require large, sheltered spaces and proper conditions.
These issues add up to high prices. Fortunately, prices recently started to decline and may soon stabilize. But those price changes may not affect consumers for some time due to existing inventory.
2. Cannabinoid Extraction and Refinement is a Difficult Process
The next step also influences why CBD is so expensive.
It would be nice if CBD extraction were as simple as squeezing oil out of hemp flowers, but it doesn’t work like that. The process is quite sophisticated, utilizing expensive, highly calibrated machines.
Processors extract CBD and other cannabinoids from hemp using two primary solutions, ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2).
Both methods produce perfectly safe products when carried out correctly, but ethanol provides the less expensive option. Manufacturers using this method can also scale up production more easily compared to CO2 processes.
Companies that produce smaller batches frequently opt for supercritical CO2 extraction. This method can extract greater amounts of compounds from hemp, and can result in exceedingly high-quality products. But CO2 extraction is a wildly expensive process with lots of room for error. As a result, small-batch “boutique” brands typically cost more than others.
Both methods produce full spectrum hemp extract, which contains CBD, THC, minor cannabinoids, and other plant compounds like essential oils and terpenes. And some companies use those full spectrum extracts in their products.
But many people choose to avoid any THC content due to health or employment concerns.
To produce a THC-free* product, CBD product makers must further process the hemp extract to create broad spectrum extract.
Continued refinement can produce pure CBD or CBD isolate for use in products.
Finally, cbdMD takes things a step further by using a hybrid method to create our Superior Broad Spectrum formula. Our CBD process utilizes multiple isolates to provide consumers with consistent amounts of cannabinoids across all product batches.
Traditional full and broad spectrum extracts cannot duplicate this kind of precision.
Finally, innovations that make these processes more efficient will certainly affect prices in the future.
3. Development, Good Manufacturing Practices, and Quality Control Require Major Investment
Reputable companies don’t simply make CBD oils and put them out in the world. They engage in extensive research and development, abide by current good manufacturing practices (GMP), and enact stringent quality control and testing to create superior hemp products. All of which contributes to why CBD is so expensive.
These initiatives require the services of highly educated, experienced, and knowledgeable laboratory workers, extremely sophisticated equipment, and equally reputable partners for third-party testing and evaluation.
In the absence of such skilled people and top-tier equipment, quality, reliability, and safety can suffer greatly. Corner-cutting should never take place when manufacturing a product intended to support wellness. Nonetheless, many companies do so, and still charge consumers a premium price.
One way to ensure proper peace of mind when determining where to buy CBD oil is to look for companies who test their products throughout the production process. Reputable companies will always use third-party labs to independently test their product batches, while also providing lab results, otherwise known as a Certificate of Analysis. This certificate further verifies the contents of a product, and ensures that no harmful chemicals or additives were used at any point in the production process.
4. Distribution and Marketing is Hampered
One of the major factors of why CBD is so expensive pertains to its small-scale distribution.
Many major retail outlets, like grocery, drug, and health supplement stores, refuse to carry CBD products or severely limit selection. This problem relates to regulatory issues, misconceptions about hemp, and bad actors in the hemp industry.
In short, many retailers view CBD as potential liability.
This barrier prevents widespread distribution. The buying power of large retail chains typically reduces distribution and shipping costs, which drives prices down for consumers.
Some major online platforms, like Amazon, do not allow the sale of CBD either. Certainly, there are those that break the rules. However, most of the products you find on Amazon aren’t authentic, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.
CBD sellers also face limited marketing opportunities. Major search engines, social media sites, and broadcasting networks severely restrict or ban CBD advertising, which makes it difficult for responsible sellers to reach their intended audiences. This barrier causes CBD companies to find other, more labor-intensive avenues for marketing, which also provides context on why CBD is so expensive.
5. Financial Institutions Don’t Always Support CBD Companies
Despite the obvious missteps that caused the real estate crash of the late 2000s and the chain reaction of calamities that resulted from it, banks and other financial institutions take a risk-averse stance on most matters.
And despite growing acceptance of cannabis and its derivatives across the USA, financial services providers tend to view hemp companies as risky. As a result, many CBD companies have problems finding credit or payment processing. The banks and credit-card processing companies that choose to work with hemp companies may charge more for their services – which can contribute to why CBD is so expensive.
Due to these issues, CBD makers and sellers often court private investment in their companies. Investors generally want to make their money back quickly, which can also inflate prices.
6. CBD Pricing is Often Misunderstood
One factor relating to the perception of why CBD is so expensive deals with consumers' views on products and price.
It’s best to judge CBD product prices in per-milligram terms since higher concentrations are typically less expensive per milligram of CBD. But most people who want to try CBD for the first time opt for low concentrations to start, which can lead them to believe the long-term costs are prohibitive.
But let’s look at some numbers using cbdMD’s CBD oil tincture products as an example.
At cbdMD we price our 300 mg CBD oil tincture at $29.99, which works out just over $0.10 per mg of CBD. But we also offer our 1500 mg tincture for $99.99 ($0.067 per mg) and our 3000 mg tincture for ($0.05 per mg). In other words, by purchasing a 1500 mg or 3000 mg tincture, you can save 33 percent and 50 percent per milligram when compared to the 300 mg tincture.
That’s a huge difference, and simply knowing this can really change your perspective on the price of CBD.
7. Poorly Made Products and Rip-Offs are Expensive By Nature
Unfortunately, scam artists exist in the CBD market. Remember when we told you that CBD is not permitted for sale on Amazon? Well, some sellers promote products in ways that lead customers to believe they’re getting huge amounts of CBD at an incredible price.
I mean, a 350,000 mg bottle of “hemp extract” gummy bears at the price of $32.95 sounds like a great deal! But you’re really paying $32.95 for 60 gummy bears with no active cannabinoids.
So in this example, it’s not really a question of “Why is CBD so expensive?” Instead, it’s a question of “Why are these gummy bears so damn expensive?”
There are also companies who simply make subpar products with no quality-control measures in place, but still sell their products at a premium price. Inconsistent CBD levels and mislabeled products rank among the most prevalent criticisms of hemp-derived wellness products.
Luckily, there are recent innovations, like cbdMD’s Superior Broad Spectrum hemp extract formula, which solve these problems through consistent, quality-checked processes.
When thinking about what to look for when buying CBD oil, third party lab tests and detailed ingredients lists can help you find out if a product is the real thing.When buying CBD oil online, here are five things to look out for:
1. Free offers
“Just pay shipping and handling!” This phrase is used all too often by companies looking to make a quick buck and gain access to your credit information. Beware of any free offers that don’t require some sort of purchase.
2. Only selling on social media
Social media platforms are very strict about how they let companies sell their products, especially CBD. While advertising on social media is one thing, blatant messaging and overselling on platforms like Facebook and Instagram is often a way to gain insight into online selling tactics. Beware of companies who only sell on social media.
3. No third-party lab results
The gold standard of CBD transparency and regulation. No third-party lab results, no purchase – it’s that simple.
4. Small number of reviews
CBD companies should have several consumer reviews for you to compare. Those that only have a few are less trustworthy than those that have a big library of product and consumer reviews.
5. “Miracle” claims
CBD is still in its infancy stages in terms of research and scientific studies. Any company that claims their product is a “miracle drug” is simply using buzzworthy terms that are meant to catch your attention and deter you from properly researching their products.
When it comes to your health, research and due diligence will serve as the necessary tools to help discover which CBD oil is right for you.
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So there you have it. There are many reasons why CBD is so expensive. But you can save a lot of money by shopping with cbdMD. Here are a few ways you can get the best available prices on your favorite CBD products.
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When you buy a cbdMD product with higher CBD content, you pay less per milligram when compared to lower concentrations. The savings can really make a difference!
Disclaimer: The cbdMD page contains general information about health, diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Any information provided should not be considered or treated as medical advice and always consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes. Products and information mentioned on the cbdMD blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and cbdMD is not responsible for their content.