Cannabidiol. Tetrahydrocannabinol. These are the scientific terms for the compounds found in hemp and marijuana, respectively (thank goodness for acronyms). With the swiftly changing cultural and legal landscape dealing with these (potentially useful) chemicals, it’s important that consumers and consumer advocates stay aware of the nature of this emerging industry, and how its accelerating growth can attract snake oil salesmen, especially in the USA.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has, (at least so far) taken a limited role in regulating and controlling the CBD market, much like its approach in the supplement space. Generally speaking, for supplements, and now CBD, the FDA will only do something if a problem occurs in the market. In a, frankly, problematic reality, this means anyone can manufacture, market, and sell supplements and are only subject to general common and consumer protection law on truthfulness and safety. There is no screening or approval process companies must go through before selling ingestible supplements to consumers. This is currently true as well for CBD products. The FDA has analyzed, screened, and approved exactly one cannabis-based drug, which is used to treat rare seizure disorders.
As demand for CBD increases as a self-treatment for GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), joint pain, and other ailments, and without anyone doing any gatekeeping to the market, snake oil products are appearing. A 2017 study found that 7 out of 10 CBD oil products are mislabeled as to the amount of CBD they actually contain (some had more, and some had less). And 1 in 5 CBD products tested even contained THC, which is the euphoriant in marijuana and technically illegal under federal and many states’ law.
So, for consumers, this means mind your Ps and Qs (an old English idiom told to students to make sure they watched what they were doing when practicing their cursive). You must be diligent on the front-end for what products contain what they say they do, do what they say they can, and are safe. On the back end, if there is fraud or physical harm, that’s when to call an attorney, whether for a personal injury or to get your money back for the product itself. Class actions have serves as private AG (you can figure this one out) actions in the supplement market, and will likewise do that job when fraud, deception, and other problems inevitably come to light in the unregulated CBD market.
As with all emerging industries, the future is TBD (Tomorrow is Bright yet unDetermined). The scientific literature on CBD and its utility as a treatment for various ailments is still in its early stages. Hopefully more RCTs (randomized controlled trials) can shed light on the compound and its therapeutic benefits. However, when you get anxious about your achy joints and your NSAIDs are bothering your stomach (if you are over the age of 28, you know what NSAIDs are), be a diligent and informed consumer. And, of course, if something goes wrong, the product isn’t what it says it is, or can’t do what it says it can, talk to an attorney. Patrick J. Brickman