Over the past two years, interest in CBD has skyrocketed. As predicted, the 2019 market share grew exponentially, increasing 562 percent over the previous year. With over 3500 retailers in the industry, the compound has become a staple in the medicine cabinets and on the kitchen shelves of millions of consumers.
However, there are still severe regulatory concerns that affect both advertisers and consumers. The 2014 Farm Bill made the cultivation of hemp legal at the federal level. Then in 2018, the bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substance Act. While this legislation amounted to a massive win for hemp advocates, the industry is still handcuffed by the law as it relates to the FDA.
The US Food and Drug Administration regulates food, drugs, cosmetics, and supplements and also has the final authority over cannabis and hemp-derived products. However, it has been over a year since the FDA announced that they would establish a regulatory framework for the industry, and very little has happened.
On December 31, 2019, the organization posted its latest update concerning the regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products. This recent statement discusses more of what brands cannot say about their products than what they can. Here are just a few highlights from the FDA website:
- Products containing CBD or THC cannot be sold as supplements. This means that any educational literature or advertising about CBD cannot include the word “supplement.”
- In spite of the therapeutic potential that cannabis-based products might have, only a single FDA-approved drug can be marketed for its potential health benefits. That drug—manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals— is Epidiolex, and it used for certain childhood seizure disorders.
- The FDA has increased its enforcement actions against CBD companies that make medical claims about the products they are selling. Most recently, they have issued warning letters to 15 brands for making claims that CBD could treat or cure specific diseases and conditions.
- The organization has also made it clear that under the FD&C Act, it is illegal to add CBD to food products, including animal products. If this regulation is enforced, it effectively prohibits products like gummies, chocolate, tea, coffee, pet treats, and other products containing CBD from being sold across state lines.
Where Does the FDA’s Regulations on CBD Leave Consumers?
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, around 76% of consumers wrongly assume that the FDA has approved the CBD products they purchase. Since this is clearly not the case, there are a few things for consumers to be aware of.
- Always purchase CBD from a reliable and reputable brand.
- Make sure you know where your hemp is grown and harvested.
- Don’t purchase CBD products that do not have clear and recent third-party lab tests available to view.
- Do your homework on a company’s manufacturing and extraction methods.
- Check with your physician to make sure CBD is safe for you.
Consumers should also do their own research into any potential health benefits of cannabis-related products. Instead of relying on advertisers, purchasers can take advantage of many resources to educate themselves on the latest cannabis research and findings.
Deciphering Advertising and Information
The lingering confusion over how companies can market their CBD products is problematic. While there are many deceptive CBD businesses, there are also just as many well-meaning brands whose primary aim is to educate consumers on the benefits of cannabidiol. The newest round of warning letters has made it harder than ever for companies to talk about their products without fear of legal action.
To give you an example of just how difficult it is for a CBD company to advertise, imagine you are a realtor trying to sell a house. You can promote the property only on certain websites, and social media marketing is prohibited. You can say the word “house” but not “home.” You can give the square footage but can’t compare its size to other houses. You cannot tell potential buyers about the safety and security features of the property, and you cannot talk about how much the previous occupants loved the place. You can’t discuss the benefits of the new appliances or updated heating system and how they will make your buyer’s life easier. You can give facts and nothing more.
This is what advertisers and educational sites in the cannabis space grapple with every day. Most want to give you as much helpful information as possible, but their hands are tied. Until the FDA presents a better solution, consumers will have to be satisfied with vague statements and unclear answers to their questions.
In the past year, you may have noticed some of the wording in our articles on the Echo blog has changed. We have replaced phrases like “CBD can help people with arthritis” with statements like “In some studies, CBD has been shown to have the potential to help people with bone health.” We make every effort to list our sources from only the highest quality educational and scientific organizations. And we avoid making claims that could affect the future of our organization because we know how many individuals and families rely on ECHO Connection.