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A Complete Guide to Understanding a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for Cannabidiol (CBD)

A Complete Guide to Understanding a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for Cannabidiol (CBD)

The federal and state departments of agriculture in the U.S. issue a certificate of analysis (COA) for all products containing cannabidiol or CBD, including industrial hemp. This certificate or COA is for the following:

  • CBD edibles
  • CBD oils
  • CBD tinctures
  • Other CBD products

The COA is important for everyone consuming, dealing in, or growing industrial hemp, and the manufacturers producing cannabidiol or CBD products. So, what is this COA really? And, how does this certificate of analysis affect you as a consumer?

What Is a Cannabidiol or CBD COA (Certificate of Analysis)?

The certificate of analysis or COA of any cannabidiol or CBD product is the result of a series of chemical tests done by a third party laboratory to note the different percentages or proportions of the various ingredients in the composition of a final product.

The COA is in a way the official label of ingredients in a CBD product. Every CBD product is to be tested for the desirable and undesirable ingredients so that you and other consumers know what they are buying and using.

You may be aware that cannabidiol or CBD isn’t an intoxicant or psychoactive compound, but it doesn’t mean that the products don’t have any intoxicating or psychoactive substance, such as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Almost all CBD products will invariably have some THC, but the proportions can vary wildly depending on the composition and other vital factors.

Apart from tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is a regulated psychoactive compound, a COA tests a CBD product for other harmful or potentially toxic substances, including but not limited to the following:

  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic chemicals

Every batch of a CBD product is tested by a third party laboratory, which is not affiliated with the manufacturer, to issue the COA. If the certificate of analysis finds an alarming proportion of any of the harmful or toxic substances, the CBD product is effectively unsafe.

You, as a consumer, can access this COA for every batch or type of CBD product to know how much cannabidiol is present in the composition. More importantly, you will get to know if a CBD product contains any toxic or undesirable compound, substance, etc., in the formula.

Let me now elaborate on the most important findings in a certificate of analysis or COA of any cannabidiol or CBD infused product.


A CBD COA will mention the percentage of cannabidiol in a product. You should refer to this mg or ml proportion to figure out how strong the cannabidiol content is in the composition. This CBD percentage isn’t an isolated parameter because it is closely interlinked with the THC content.

While CBD isn’t a regulated compound like THC, a higher proportion of cannabidiol might have a significant tetrahydrocannabinol content. That will make the CBD product intoxicating and also unsafe. Such a product with high CBD and THC contents will likely be prohibited or regulated.

Hence, you should note the cannabidiol or CBD percentage by volume or weight in a certificate of analysis or COA before buying the product, regardless of the form the composition is in. That said, the CBD content isn’t the most critical element of a COA for most cannabidiol products.

Heavy metals

Among the concerning substances in a cannabidiol or CBD product are heavy metals, such as the following:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

These heavy metals are toxic. Thus, they shouldn’t be present in any CBD product beyond their detection limit or DL. The detection limit for most cannabidiol products according to COA testing is less than 0.01 ppm (parts per million). Therefore, any CBD product you buy should not have more than 0.01 ppm of these heavy metals. The COA should show >0.01 for all the four metals.


The other major concern in CBD products is the presence of pesticides because industrial hemp is cultivated with the help of different chemicals to facilitate a bountiful harvest. Any CBD COA is supposed to account for pesticides. More importantly, the tests shouldn’t find any pesticides. 

Therefore, you must look for the ND or not detected inference in the certificate of analysis for all CBD products pertaining to pesticides and toxic substances. The COA or label of CBD products should clearly state if pesticides were ND or not detected in the independent tests by a lab.


Last but not least, the certificate of analysis or COA of any cannabidiol or CBD product states the proportion of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This THC content should be below 0.3% for any CBD product to be considered or labeled as unregulated. Otherwise, prohibition and other legal restrictions will come into force regarding the particular CBD products with a high THC content.


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