CBD products come from the flower of the hemp plant.

If it seems like cannabidiol—commonly known as CBD—is all the rage, that’s because it is. Sales of CBD products rose from $108 million in 2014 to an estimated $512.7 this year, and growth is projected to reach the $1.8 billion mark by 2022. A couple of years ago, few people in Sarasota and Manatee had heard of CBD. Now, a quick Google search shows dozens of stores, from trendy boutiques to vape shops, adult entertainment shops and Lucky’s Market selling CBD, in forms that range from tinctures to lotions to foods.

But the world of CBD is a wild and unruly place, with businesses that make all kinds of wild claims about what their products can do, and almost zero in the way of regulations to keep them honest.

At its most basic, CBD is a chemical compound found in the flower of the hemp plant. Despite their association with marijuana, CBD products contain at most trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (known as THC), the psychoactive component that gets marijuana smokers high. Regulations limit the amount of THC allowed to be present in CBD products to just .3 percent, and many CBD products contain no THC at all. You don’t need a prescription of any kind to buy CBD.

After the CBD is taken from the plant, it is either suspended in an oil or processed even further until the CBD has been isolated and dried into a fine powder. Both can then be mixed into any number of concoctions. Users say CBD products can help with migraines, menstrual cramps, inflammation, anxiety, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and a whole range of other ailments. Many give the products to their children and even their pets.

The main way to distinguish a legitimate CBD product from an also-ran is transparency, says Shelby Isaacson, who opened the CBD shop Second and Seed in downtown Sarasota in September. Staffers should be able to tell you exactly where their CBD comes from and how it’s been handled and treated. At Second and Seed, they can tell you the names of the farms in Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming where their organic hemp grows and can supply chemical analyses from a Sarasota lab they use to verify what goes into their bottles. If a CBD purveyor doesn’t know where the hemp came from or can’t supply recent chemical test results, shop elsewhere.

Another detail to look for: a “full spectrum” product. CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid in hemp. When makers process the plant, other compounds come with it as well. Proponents say the presence of those other compounds—CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBC and others—can increase the number of ailments the product can help with, delivering what Isaacson calls an “entourage effect.” Less effective products use just pure CBD.

And as you might guess, price is also a guidepost to quality. At Your CBD Store, which opened on St. Armands Circle in September, tinctures start at $40. The shop, which is part of a franchise system that sources its CBD from Colorado, uses full spectrum, organic CBD, like Second and Seed, where prices run from $50 to over $300, depending on the size of the bottle.

While the Wild West nature of the CBD world right now has opened up opportunities for new businesses, it’s also led to substandard products flooding the market, and when users try those and get no results, they conclude that CBD products as a whole are useless. As always, it pays to do your research and ask tough questions.

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