What to Know
Farmer says hemp farming is a "green, gold rush" but knowing where CBD products come from is key.
Hemp naturally cleans soil; depending on where it's grown and processed, harmful ingredients can get into the final product.
U.S. hemp growers are subject to testing not required of international sources.
Think of Louisville and you think bourbon, baseball bats, bluegrass music and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.
So when CBD oil raced onto the scene, officials said they didn't horse around: they considered what it was, made it legal and set regulations to ensure safety.
Back home, in Texas, CBD oil is also popular, but unregulated, with local and state authorities debating whether it is, or should be, legal since it's made from hemp, the non-intoxicating cousin to marijuana.
In Kentucky, CBD has become a thriving industry, with regulations in place to weed out potentially harmful ingredients, like high levels of pesticide and lead.
"There is a green gold rush going on right now in the United States," said commercial hemp farmer Paul Glover, whose operation has grown to nearly 100 acres in the northern hills of Kentucky.
But with the rapid growth comes Glover's warning: "There are some very opportunistic individuals in the business. You have to know where your products are coming from."
Depending on where the hemp is grown and the CBD processed, harmful ingredients can get into the final product, officials say. Hemp naturally cleans soil. So toxins or pesticides found in the ground can end up in the plants and ultimately in the CBD oil itself.
An independent lab recently tested CBD products for the NBC-owned television station in Miami and found that one sample contained about four times the amount of lead that the EPA deems as safe.
"If a child gets their hands on these products, it could be life-threatening," lab owner Chris Martinez said in an interview with NBC 6 in Miami.
Law enforcement officials in Texas provide a mixed response on what to do about CBD.
The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, for instance, said it's clearly illegal under current law, while prosecutors in Dallas, Denton and Collin counties said they want more clarity on what state law says before they respond aggressively to the health craze.
Texas currently has no regulations on the quality of CBD products and the state has not legalized hemp farming.
One of the states that has legalized CBD, Kentucky's Department of Agriculture strictly enforces federal rules prohibiting metals and pesticides in hemp. Growers and processors are required to test plants to ensure metals and pesticides do not reach the final CBD products.
U.S. hemp growers said plants grown overseas are not subject to the kind of testing required here and they suspect that may be the source of harmful substances in some CBD products.
"Regulation is important because not all hemp is handled the same way," said John Taylor, owner of Commonwealth Extracts, a CBD production facility in Louisville, and one of the largest in the country.
The ingredients and source of Taylor's CBD products – information he said is vital for consumers to know – can be found by referencing batch numbers listed on the packaging.
"I think reputable manufacturers are very proud of the results ... and are happy to publish that information," he said.
Taylor said he takes quality control personal because he relies on the oil he makes. It protects him, he said, from the frequent seizures he experienced more than a decade ago.
"For me, it's been life changing. And I was able to apply that lesson into what we build in this facility," Taylor said.
Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Hills, Glover recalled the funny looks he got from neighbors and his friends at church, when they first learned he was growing a plant that looks so much like marijuana.
"Especially in this neighborhood, I had a lot of people telling me I'm growing the devil's lettuce," he said, adding: "Well, they have since come around and figured out that it helps them with their pain."