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What Will the Post COVID-19 World Look Like for CBD and the FDA?

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The US Food and Drug Administration has warned five CBD companies against making claims that their products prevent or cure COVID-19. The letters are part of a wider effort to crack down on fraudulent health claims made by companies amid the worsening pandemic.

In April, the FDA sent five different CBD companies letters, including the Kentucky-based Indigo Naturals and Colorado-based Native Roots Hemp, which told the companies to stop making health claims about their CBD products and their capabilities, especially ones that aren’t supported by reliable scientific evidence.

Some of the companies’ claims include:

–    That CBD can help speed up recovery from COVID-19

–    That it inhibits cell proliferation

–    That Immune-boosting oils and soaps can help fight the coronavirus

The FDA wrote in their letters to the previously mentioned companies: “Any coronavirus-related prevention or treatment claims regarding such products are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. You must immediately cease making all such claims.”

After CBD was federally legalized in December 2018, the FDA has taken a hard stance on companies making health claims about the popular cannabis compound. As of yet, the only FDA-approved CBD product available on the market is the epilepsy medication Epidiolex, which is effective against certain types of seizures.

While people have asked the FDA to speed up its CBD testing and research so that more companies and products can get accredited, the FDA has reiterated that it is still doing research and testing on the compound’s health claims and that may still take a few more years. Until then, CBD companies will hang in a state of marketing -limbo. Although legal, many of the beneficial health claims associated with Cannabidiol, the anti-inflammatory cannabis compound, cannot be federally substantiated.

With all the doom, gloom, and panic enveloping countries around the globe, many companies are looking to cash in on people’s anxiety and have started making big promises about their products. While CBD has been touted as a highly beneficial compound, in the absence of FDA-sanctioned studies, making claims about its ability to treat a range of diseases can put companies on shaky ground.

So what will a post-COVID-19 world look like for CBD companies? And how will they straddle the fine line between marketing their products and making potentially false claims?

For now, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to the slippery slope CBD companies will have to contend with until the FDA starts approving products. Until then, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid making any claims you can’t back up with hard science and cited studies, lest draw the ire of government officials who can and will put you out of business if you don’t heed their warnings.

While this may be the most recent issue, it certainly isn’t the first time CBD companies have gotten flack from the FDA. Last November, the FDA issued warnings to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing CBD that had been added to food or were being marketed as dietary supplements. The companies included Koi CBD, Pink Collections, Noli Oil, Natural Native, and Whole Leaf Organics.

It wrote, “As outlined in the warning letters issued today, these particular companies are using product webpages, online stores and social media to market CBD products in interstate commerce in ways that violate the FD&C Act, including marketing CBD products to treat diseases or for other therapeutic uses for humans and/or animals. Other violations include marketing CBD products as dietary supplements and adding CBD to human and animal foods.”

More recently, it also warned CBD companies against making claims that their products could be used to treat opioid addiction. Amy Abernethy, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner wrote, “CBD has not been shown to treat opioid addiction. Opioid addiction is a real problem in our country, and those who are addicted need to seek out proper treatment from a health care provider. There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness and quality of unapproved products containing CBD, and we will continue to work to protect the health and safety of American consumers from products that are being marketed in violation of the law.”

With the increase of warnings from the FDA, CBD companies need to be on high alert and refrain from ‘poking the bear’ even more. It’s a slippery slope and all it takes is a few slip-ups before a company could face a potential shut down. In this increasingly precarious time we’re  all living in, now may not be the time to tempt fate, especially with the millions of businesses already struggling as it is.

For consumers who are confused about what CBD products can and can’t do, check out Project CBD, which is helping debunk some of the claims that have been made about CBD’s purported side effects, such as liver toxicity.

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