Saturday, April 6, 2019


America’s CBD cannabis boom: Brazen claims, fake products, regulatory scrutiny

Regulators are starting to pay closer attention amid questionable claims from CBD industry.

Got arthritis? Dry skin? Menstrual cramps? Trouble sleeping or feeling stressed? The CBD industry claims it has the cure for you.
Such assertions are becoming increasingly common — and brazen — as the cannabis compound commonly known as CBD proliferates in drinks, baked goods, tinctures, body lotions and even bath salts. To some, the hype echoes 19th-century snake oil advertisements that promised to cure “all aches and pains!”

While CBD is generally believed to be safe, scant research has been conducted on its medical and health benefits because cannabis has long been prohibited at the federal level. The only clinically proven remedy is a treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. All other claims are anecdotal.
Now, regulators are starting to pay closer attention. Earlier this month, New York health officials ordered bakeries and restaurants to stop adding cannabidiol, the formal name for CBD, to beverages and food. In December, the Food and Drug Administration made clear that it’s illegal to market CBD products as dietary supplements.
“Nobody’s been allowed to do the research for all these years, so it’s a big open space where companies can say things without the data to back it up,” said Kent Hutchison, co-director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s CU Change Lab.
CBD has been sold online for years, mostly to people already familiar with THC, the psychoactive sibling that gets you high. More recently, the legalization of marijuana in several states and the boom in so-called wellness products have pushed CBD into the mainstream. Consumers are putting it under their tongues, rubbing it on their sore muscles and guzzling seltzer infused with the trendy ingredient. Retail sales of CBD more than quadrupled last year, according to the data firm SPINS, with most purchases taking place at natural grocery stores.
The stuff doesn’t come cheap: A bottle of oil with 1,500 milligrams of “full-spectrum hemp oil” sells for $160 on the new website Standard Dose, while a container of Seventh Sense eucalyptus spearmint body lotion made by the cannabis firm Green Growth Brands, with 75 milligrams of CBD, retails for $16.50.

The growing demand for CBD dovetails with Americans’ long-standing appetite for super foods and ingredients that promote wellness. In a divided and anxious nation, many people are willing to try products that claim to ease insomnia and stress. CBD is following a path already traveled by turmeric, acai berries, ginkgo biloba and so on. People tell each other the stuff works, word travels and the cash registers keep ringing.

“America has always had a population looking for the silver bullet,” says Kara Nielsen, who tracks food trends at CCD Helmsman in California. “The hype follows a similar pattern: It has a lot going for it, but it’s unclear exactly what it does so it allows people to imagine it’s their solution.”
The decade-old boom in dietary supplements could be a harbinger of what happens next with CBD. Makers of supplements have long made dubious claims and drawn the ire of regulators. This month, the FDA issued 12 warning letters and five online advisories to foreign and domestic companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s, among other diseases and health conditions.
The FDA has adopted a fairly benign posture toward CBD — occasionally sending letters warning companies not to make unsubstantiated claims and reminding them that the chemical remained prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. Then in December, Congress passed the farm bill, which makes the chemical compounds found in hemp, including CBD, legal under certain circumstances.
The new legalization places hemp-derived CBD squarely under the authority of federal agencies, including the FDA, which said in December that any CBD product marketed as having therapeutic benefits must be approved for its intended use before it’s introduced into interstate commerce.

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