The Risk of Buying Medical Cannabis Online

We’ll admit it, it’s pretty awesome living in a place where you can not only buy weed legally, but where you have the option to choose from a selection of strains, concentrates, edibles and topicals as if it were a mere trip to the gas station.

Buying weed online has become an ever growing fad. Since the introduction of the ACMPR, many dispensaries have now removed the requirement of having to provide a doctor’s medical recommendation. What does this mean for patients? Buying weed is now easier than ever, but that doesn’t mean you should just buy from anywhere. Here is a guide on the advantages of buying online, and how to do it in a safe manner.

If you’re buying medical marijuana online, you may not be getting what you’re paying for.

How Accurate Are Online CBD Products?

A study, published this week in JAMA, found that nearly 70% of all products sold online made from cannabidiol — an extract of the marijuana plant also known as CBD — contained either higher or lower concentrations of the drug than indicated on the label. That could potentially mean those CBD products are ineffective or even dangerous.

Some CBD products examined in the study also contained significant amounts of THC, the chemical compound in cannabis that makes people feel high. Pure CBD should not contain THC, which is one reason experts say it has potential as a medical treatment, and is not something that can be abused. The presence of THC is especially concerning because CBD is sometimes used by children with seizure disorders, says lead author Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

For the study, Bonn-Miller and his colleagues spent a month searching the Internet and purchasing 84 products, from 31 different companies, that included CBD content on their packaging. Then they analyzed each product for actual CBD content, as well as other ingredients.

They found that 42% of the products were under-labeled, meaning they contained a higher concentration of CBD than indicated. Another 26% were over-labeled, while 30% contained accurate CBD content (within 10% of the amount listed).

No studies have shown that taking too much CBD is harmful, says Bonn-Miller, although very little research has been done on doses over 1,500 mg. A bigger concern, he says, is that doses that are too low may affect how well the product works. Because of the variability between products, it can also be difficult for patients to expect consistent results.

CBD products sold in liquid form—for use with vaping devices—were mislabeled about 88% of the time, while CBT oils were mislabeled about 55% of the time. THC was detected in 18 of the 84 samples tested, and in some cases it was found in concentrations that “may be sufficient to produce intoxication or impairment, especially among children,” the authors wrote in their paper.

A 2015 study by the same group of researchers found similar mislabeling among edible marijuana samples. But the mislabeling of CBD products is even more concerning, says Bonn-Miller, since CBD is largely used for medicinal purposes among people of all ages, rather than as a recreational drug.

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The researchers believe the reason for these inconsistencies is a lack of regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The federal government considers cannabis a Schedule 1 controlled dangerous substance, and is not involved in production, labeling and distribution at the state level.

Last year, the Hemp Business Journal estimated that consumers will spend more than $2 billion a year on CBD products by 2020. One drug company, GW Pharmaceuticals, is currently pursuing FDA approval on a CBD-based treatment for children with a rare form of epilepsy — but beyond that, the industry remains unregulated, and Bonn-Miller warns consumers should be wary of what they’re purchasing online.

Online Marijuana Sale Scams

The social media posts offering to ship top-quality marijuana anywhere in the world for seemingly affordable prices. They may list their menu and provide a phone number through which to place your orders. Though many of us would find these posts shady and scroll past, every now and then, someone takes the bait.

Using a burner app that lets the user create temporary phone numbers (which can be “burned” as soon as they’re no longer needed) online “dealers” will send text messages, nug photos and send/receive phone calls to answer questions and provide purchase instructions. Once a deal has been reached and the buyer has deposited money into the seller’s account, communication is lost and the weed (if there ever was any) never gets sent.

Of course, not all online marijuana sales are scams. Sometimes, people in prohibition states have connections in 420-friendly states and hit friends up for a little mail-order party package. But, regardless of any monetary exchange, shipping marijuana through the mail, even small amounts, is still a big no-no due to marijuana’s illegal federal status. As soon as marijuana crosses state lines, it becomes a federal offense and could be subject to severe penalties.

Cops Bust Postal Pot

When packages are shipped through Fed Ex or UPS, they no longer hold the same promise of privacy thanks to the fourth amendment of the Constitution. According to the amendment, once a third party takes possession of a package, it is no longer protected against privacy infringement and can therefore be searched.

Even USPS, a government-funded facility which requires all employees to possess a search warrant to rifle through someone else’s package, has ways of busting people for the illegal shipment of marijuana. According to the Leaf Online, when a package is suspected of holding drugs, employees will notify local law enforcement who will then dress as postal workers, deliver the package, then nab the recipient as soon as the package is accepted. Penalties for shipping or receiving marijuana in the mail include jail time and hefty fines; penalties increase drastically as the weight and number of transactions rises.

What To Be Aware Of When You Buy Medical Marijuana Online

The first thing every customer should know about how to buy medical marijuana online is to use a legitimate, proven, certified medical marijuana dispensary. It’s important to follow the adage which states “offers that seem too good to be true usually are.” You don’t want to succumb to a hustler nor do you want to be caught up in an illegal operation. To that end, don’t ever buy medical marijuana through someone in a forum, on Facebook or via Craigslist because chances are the transaction will be illegal.

Here are a few other guidelines to follow when looking to buy marijuana online:

  • Make sure to use a site you can trust
  • Use a site that has been around for awhile, which means it has complied with medical marijuana legislation
  • Ensure the company is registered to sell their product
  • Read the reviews

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