The CBD craze has led to an abundance of products on the market that are infused with the highly popular compound found in hemp. There have been CBD-infused drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), CBD-infused gummies, CBD-infused chocolate, CBD-infused pet products, and even CBD-infused activewear.
CBD’s popularity followed the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the Farm Bill. That piece of legislation defined hemp as any part of Cannabis sativa L. with a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or lower. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that creates the “high.” The bill also removed hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act.
However, the Farm Bill also preserved the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of hemp products. As a result, they must meet FDA requirements and standards just like any other product regulated by the FDA. Therein lies the rub.
Late last year, the FDA put out a notice suggesting that users be wary of using cannabidiol (CBD), because there simply isn’t enough research to determine if the purported benefits are there. CBD is being used for everything from anxiety to pain relief.
Other than one prescription drug (Epidiolex) used to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any other CBD products.
The FDA noted that it’s illegal to market CBD by adding it to food or labeling it as a dietary supplement. Despite this, some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims. In November 2019, the FDA issued warning letters to 15 companies selling illegal CBD products that violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. That brought to 22 the number of companies receiving warning letters in 2019. By comparison, the FDA only issued one warning letter in 2018.
This uncertainty has some companies stepping back from initial efforts to jump on the CBD bandwagon. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that a number of companies including PepsiCo, StarkBucks and Kellog were researching its use, but have sidelined their work given the uncertainty of approval.
While the FDA has said it recognizes the potential benefits of CBD, questions remain over its risks, including the potential for liver damage, as well as a number of other side effects including changes in mood, gastrointestinal distress and drowsiness. In addition, CBD might interfere with a number of different prescription medications.
As with any craze the use of CBD likely will evolve. Stay tuned!