If you believe the hype, one little bottle of CBD contains miracles. It treats diabetes; reduces stress; alleviates chronic pain and anxiety; even cures acne. Trouble sleeping? Panicky pet? CBD to the rescue.
All that, and so much more — at a bargain price as low as $40 for some formulas. This potent potable also comes mixed into body lotions, bath salts, coffee, smoothies, gummy bears, chocolate, cheese pizza and dog biscuits.
The fad for cannabidiol, or CBD, clearly has gone mainstream. From virtually nothing a few years ago, sales of the cannabis-related compound have exploded into a billion-dollar market. CBD’s true believers tout one miraculous health claim after the next.
In light of the wide dissemination of these beliefs, CBD claims deserve careful scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — and some attention from state regulators, too. Despite its ubiquity, CBD largely remains an unresearched substance in the United States. CBD is the nonintoxicating, natural molecule extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD is found in marijuana, of course, but it’s also present in hemp, the related plant whose cultivation in the U.S. was legalized by Congress in December.
Its proven medical uses are confined to a drug the FDA approved last summer to treat two rare forms of pediatric epilepsy. It’s the first — and only — medicine derived from cannabis that has been greenlighted by the federal agency.
Because CBD already is sold as a drug, federal law technically bans its use in food and drink that crosses state lines. “Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” Scott Gottlieb, then the FDA commissioner, wrote in a statement when hemp production was legalized. But enforcement largely is left to states, where it has been uneven. Earlier this year, New York City health officials banned bakeries and restaurants from selling food and beverages with CBD. Ohio and Maine also have moved proactively. In Massachusetts, though, the sale of products containing hemp-derived CBD still is loosely regulated. For instance, the state has not addressed sales of food and drink made with CBD.
Now, maybe adding CBD to food is safe. And maybe it really can deliver medicinal benefits. But sorting through the safety and efficacy claims requires a more muscular FDA role. Last month, the FDA held a much-awaited hearing on how to regulate CBD consumer products and got an earful on the need for a science-based approach to regulation. “Currently, states are struggling with the lack of sound scientific research available in CBD and long-term health impacts, including those to children,” a Virginia state official stated. Most medical experts agreed that CBD holds potential medicinal properties, but more clinical trials are needed before allowing the hemp extract to be added to food and drink.
The hazy legal status of hemp-derived CBD until December, coupled with lack of funding, deterred studies in the past. Now researchers need to determine how different doses affect consumers. None of which is to say that CBD itself should be banned. Coke is still available, after all; the company just no longer claims that the beverage cures headaches and upset stomach.
— The Boston Globe