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Why Is CBD So Expensive

CBD oils offer a variety of health benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory properties to pain and stress management. The hype surrounding these oils isn’t going anywhere, as the number of products integrating CBD is only growing year after year. You can find CBD among the ingredients of many beauty products, snacks, and even pet food.

So, this brings us to the main question that pops into many people’s heads, why is CBD so expensive? A small vial can cost you somewhere between $50 to over $100, which is more than many of the essential oils on the market.

In order to understand the reason behind this insane price tag, let’s track back a bit and explore the production process behind the pure CBD isolates to see whether the prices are justifiable or not.

CBD Journey From Seed to Shelf

1. Cannabis Plants Farming Challenges

Cannabidiol, the active ingredient of CBD, can be extracted from a handful of plants like marijuana and industrial hemp. Though it’s legal to sell hemp-derived CBD all over the US, many states impose restrictions on hemp farming.

Once farmers meet all the prerequisites and get the license to cultivate cannabis or hemp, the process doesn’t get any easier moving forward. They’ll be looking at exorbitant amounts of taxes to pay, in addition to continuous oversight and monitoring by the state government to ensure the hemp farming process meets the legal standards.

For example, if the hemp plants go over the top with their THC production, they must be terminated. This is understandable, as THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana, responsible for its intoxicating effects. 

So, in order to avoid such cash crop losses, hemp farmers should invest in special equipment to monitor their crops throughout the whole cultivation cycle and make sure that they check all the boxes.

Though hemp can grow in a wide variety of weather conditions, farmers shoot for the highest-quality crops that yield as much CBD oil as possible. This task requires tons of preparation and is only possible in specific temperature and moisture levels.

In order not to leave anything for chance, many farmers opt for temperature-controlled, indoor sheds to grow their hemp crops. This way, there are fewer variables in play, and farmers have more control over the entire hemp farming process. It comes as no surprise that all these added expenses share in driving the price of the final product up.

2. Multi-stage Extraction Process

You might think that the oil extraction process will be a walk in the park now that all the complicated preparatory processes are out of the way. Unfortunately, this is far from it, as CBD and cannabinoids extraction requires highly specialized machines that are expensive upfront and come with added maintenance costs down the line.

That’s not all; skilled workers who are experienced with operating such sophisticated machinery are also part of the equation. Here, the manpower is more costly than similar oil extraction industries due to the fact that such a specialized industry requires a unique set of skills that is difficult to come by.

The CBD oil production can be broken down into two main stages: extraction using ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) and purification of the resulting extract.

Ethanol Extraction

This method of extraction is relatively cheaper to operate and is better suited for mass production. It also doesn’t leave behind any residues or harmful byproducts, which is a welcome addition.

The polar solvent properties of ethanol are put to great use here. Through condensation, boiling, and cooling, ethanol acts as a dissolving medium for plant-based water-soluble substances in the hemp flower. This way, cannabis oil is separated from many other additives, making its extraction way easier.

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction

On the other hand, CO2 machines offer another method for CBD oil extraction. This technique yields larger amounts of extract from a given hemp batch, allowing manufacturers to cut down on raw materials’ waste during production. Also, oils produced this way tend to come at a higher quality compared to those resulting from ethanol extraction.

However, it’s not all pink and roses, as the CO2 machines are much more expensive to operate, driving the production costs up. That’s why it’s only adopted by the high-end manufacturers that favor quality over quantity. 

When the demand for their CBD products is higher than the production rate, these manufacturers use the scarcity factor to set higher price points, and as they use the best extraction methods in the industry, customers usually come back for the unmatched quality.

So, how does CO2 extraction actually work? The dedicated extraction machines operate at very high levels of temperature and pressure. Such extreme conditions can transform CO2 into its supercritical state, which exhibits both gaseous and liquid properties. 

This reactive CO2 can go through the hemp flower and extract the plant’s phytochemicals like CBD, THC, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils. The resulting substance is called a full spectrum CBD extract, and it can undergo further purification to yield CBD isolates or be used directly in a number of products.

Purification

We’ve finally made it to the purification step, and it’s worth noting that the cost can significantly vary according to the methods used and the purity of the final product. Starting with the hemp extract, CBD manufacturers can go the extra mile to produce THC-free products.

There is an unmistakable demand for CBD oils that come with a certificate of analysis ensuring that no traces of THC made it into the final product. This is due to the health and employment concerns that THC consumption poses, as you want to use your oils any day of the week without ever worrying about getting high.

Once THC is removed from the full spectrum CBD extract, the resulting product is called a broad spectrum CBD extract. Pay close attention to this terminology while picking one CBD brand over another, as the naming conventions might give the impression that the products aren’t strikingly different at first glance. However, this is far from the truth.

Furthermore, extra purification steps are needed to convert the broad spectrum extract to the pure CBD or CBD isolate forms. Every single step in the way requires advanced technologies, experienced manpower, and research to make the process more efficient in the future. 

So, next time you hold a small bottle of CBD oil or check out a CBD Bath Bomb and frown at the high prices, just remember the long journey that the hemp seed oil has gone through to produce the various CBD products.

Extracted CBD Oil stored in a glass container in a labratory.

3. Manufacturing And Quality Control

CBD extraction isn’t by any means the end of the line, as manufacturers can just package the hemp oil in a bottle and call it a day. Since these products are directed towards boosting the health and wellness of its consumers, safety should be a top priority throughout the entire production process.

Whenever you see that an unbiased third-party lab was responsible for all the testing and product analysis, you’d be more confident in the product you’re purchasing. Make sure you look for the lab reports, otherwise known as the certificate of analysis, as they provide a solid idea about the nature of ingredients entering your body.

Furthermore, there are also tons of considerations to ensure that a CBD product is palatable and easy to use. For example, CBD tincture is a form that uses natural ingredients to add odor and flavor. 

So, consumers who don’t necessarily like the way cannabis plants smell can still use the products and enjoy the multitude of health benefits that CBD extracts deliver.


At the end of the day, the cost of CBD is governed by the quality assurance expenses, research to make products more user-friendly, and safety practices integrated throughout the production process.

4. Distribution

You might think that CBD had its fair share of challenges already through the production pipeline, and things should go smoother once we have the actual product ready for distribution and sale. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, as there are more challenges that CBD products face before they hit the shelves.

Since there are many misconceptions and scrutiny surrounding CBD, many retailers choose the easy way out and decide not to sell CBD. What makes things even more complicated is that different states impose their own set of rules and regulations, presenting many hiccups in the way of the product distribution across the country and overseas.

This explains why CBD has a limited scale distribution, which impacts the shipping costs, price of CBD oil, and availability of the different products. 

It’s also worth noting that CBD products don’t attract many partners in the online shopping market. For example, retailers like Amazon limit the sales of CBD through their platform, stripping customers of the convenience of ordering their favorite CBD oils from the comfort of their home.

5. Marketing

When it comes to marketing, search engines and social media marketplaces all close the doors in front of CBD. The tech giants have their algorithms in place to make it difficult for CBD products to surface on the timelines of more customers, rendering online marketing ineffective.

For a CBD company to inform more customers about its products, it has to opt for more expensive marketing strategies involving more labor. Behind each CBD oil bottle sold, there is a company representative working to raise awareness about the product and its benefits, which is more expensive to maintain compared to a comprehensive social media campaign.

Always Prioritize Your Safety and Health

Now that we’ve dissected the hemp seed oil entire production process, you probably have a better idea where the CBD pricing strategy comes from. Though you might come across cheaper products, you shouldn’t factor your purchase decision on price alone.

There are tons of counterfeit CBD products on the market that use questionable extraction techniques and aren’t backed up by third-party lab tests. Furthermore, some brands set unrealistic expectations like the ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent many diseases without any scientific basis, which should raise your suspicion.

You have to understand that CBD still has tons of research to go through before we know for sure whether its proposed health benefits are actually true. So, you should disregard companies advertising CBD as the miracle drug that can treat anything.

So, for the most part, there’s always a catch for cutting down on the CBD oil cost. You’ll be getting a poor-quality product that doesn’t live up to the hype, and the whole experience will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Needless to say that non-certified products can include some harmful additives that have negative impacts on your health.

In Conclusion: Why Is CBD So Expensive?

The next time you wonder “Why is CBD oil so expensive?” you should have the answer now that we’ve taken you behind the scenes and walked you through many of the challenges that CBD products have to overcome before hitting the market. Add tons of taxation to the mix, and you’ve got yourself an extravagant price tag. 

However, the cannabis plant holds the secrets for a variety of health benefits that actually changed the life of many people for the better. Also, a small bottle of CBD isolate can last you a long period, as you only need small amounts at a time. 

So, if you look at the price of CBD in terms of benefits and time frame of usage, instead of merely the size of the bottle you’re buying, you’ll realize the value you get for your money. Once you try it for yourself, you’ll have a better judgment and will come to understand the growing hype surrounding CBD.

About the Writer

Kehlia D.

Kehlia is a freelance writer with degrees in Chemistry, Plant Science and Agricultural Technology and focusing on cannabinoid science. Her studies and research have taken her to three continents and she is currently digital nomading in Israel while studying the CBD industry based there.

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