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It seems like everywhere you go these days there is evidence of the growing popularity of CBD as a health and wellness product. From the internet to the grocery store aisle, to the yoga studio, everywhere you look, CBD is front and center. Championed as a remedy for everything from anxiety to insomnia to epilepsy, there’s no denying that this little cannabis compound is getting some big attention. While most of the current focus is on CBD extracts, pills and topicals, there is a growing interest in the properties of the industrial hemp hemp flower itself. Long touted for its healing and medicinal properties, high CBD hemp flower is coming into its own it the marketplace. With this rapid market growth, consumers find themselves faced with an ever-increasing amount of choices, both in terms of products and vendors. As a consumer, here are some of the things you should be looking for from a reputable online hemp flower vendor.

DOES THE VENDOR SELL A QUALITY PRODUCT?

This is an obvious place to start. Now quality can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but let’s try to break it down with some level of objectivity. The hemp flower that they grow or sell should first and foremost come from quality genetics, that is, genetics that is specifically bred for high CBD, low THC cannabis. The COA’s should confirm this (more on those in a minute) but generally, you should be able to trace the flower back to one of the few dozen strains that are currently being cultivated as hemp.

From the genetics let’s look at the growing practices. There is a big difference in hemp that is being grown for extraction or industrial applications and hemp that is cultivated for the smokable flower. Generally, higher quality, smokable hemp flower is going to mean smaller farms. We are talking about operations where each plant can be inspected every day. Ideally, growing operations under 5 acres or so or in greenhouses. It’s also nice to know that the product that you are buying is not being doused with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Currently, there is no official organic certification for hemp and, although there is probably a fair amount of greenwashing going on, many reputable farms and grow operations are employing organic growing practices in their cultivation.

Finally, there are the post-harvest procedures that play largely into the quality of the CBD flower. Drying large amounts of hemp flower to the perfect humidity takes space – lots of space. Again smaller growing operations mean that they are not harvesting the huge amounts of flower that necessitate compressed or artificially accelerated drying times. Additionally, proper curing times (30 days or more) are necessary to reveal all of the quality and integrity of any premium grade flower and ensure that all of the smell, flavor, and potency are properly preserved and developed. The final mark of quality is a good trim on the actual bud. Hand trimmed flower will always be the gold standard but some machine trim will pass in a pinch.

DO THEIR PRODUCTS HAVE COA’S?

COA’s, or certificates of analysis, should accompany any purchase of hemp flower from a reputable vendor. This means copies of third-party lab tests to confirm that the product that you have ordered is actually the CBD rich hemp strain that it claims to be. While these labs are not infallible, they do lend some credibility to the vendor that you are buying from. They also provide some level of assurance that the product that you have in your possession is hemp and not marijuana. Ideally, the labs come with a QR code that you can scan back to the facility, to ensure the vendor has not doctored it in any way.

HOW IS THE PRODUCT PACKAGED AND SHIPPED?

Anytime that you are ordering online you want to ensure that your package arrives safely and discreetly but that’s especially important with hemp flower. In the perfect packaging scenario, all hemp flower is double bagged and heat sealed then shipped via USPS priority mail in a box, not envelope, to protect the CBD flower. All strains should be mailed accompanied by their individual COA’s. There should also be a standard notice to law enforcement included avoiding any misunderstanding in regards to the nature of the product being sent. Finally, you should receive a shipping confirmation with a tracking number so that all orders can be tracked. Both you and the vendor should know where the package is at all times.

HOW IS THE CUSTOMER SERVICE?

I’ve saved the best for last. I say this because all of the above can be correct but, if the vendor seems unresponsive or unwilling to address reasonable questions or concerns that I may have about their product, it’s usually a deal breaker. Now, I know that any small business is going to struggle from time to time with the organization and staying on top of the day to day demands of running a smooth operation. Some things are naturally going to fall through the cracks here and there. I just want to know that if and when they do, someone is there and willing to help correct it. Above all, I would like some assurance that, if I am going to order a product from a faceless website, there is at least one human being somewhere who cares just a little about my experience with their product. Nothing big, just return an email or phone call in a reasonable amount of time (24 hours). You could also add the user-friendliness of their website to this category. An online platform that looks like it’s from this decade, please?

As the market of  CBD hemp flower, and that of CBD products, in general, continues to grow and mature, consumers will find that they have more and more options for both online and brick and mortar retailers. Industry best practices will begin to solidify and increasingly educated consumers will be able to make informed choices about a variety of products and services. For now, just keep a few of these things in mind when ordering from online hemp vendors and your experience should be smooth and stress-free.

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