Study: 3/4 of Americans Wrongly Think CBD Is Regulated by the FDA

CBD products are booming in popularity, but knowledge about their regulations are not.
CBD products are booming in popularity, but knowledge about their regulations are not. Jacqueline Collins
According to a recent survey published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, over 75 percent of Americans assume that commercial CBD products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration — which is not true.

Out of the 2,056 Americans who participated in the survey, 76 percent of respondents assumed that CBD products were already regulated by the FDA, while 16 percent of respondents were unsure of whether CBD products were regulated by the FDA or not — adding up to a 92 percent rate of confusion over CBD production and regulation.

"While more than six-in-ten Americans (62 percent) have heard about CBD, most of these consumers are uncertain or mistaken about what CBD actually is, what it does and whether all products made with CBD are safe to consume," the study reads.

Currently, the only CBD product approved by the FDA is Epidiolex, a marijuana-derived medicine used to treat certain seizure disorders. The FDA states that more research needs to be done before deciding if CBD can be approved as an ingredient in food, cosmetics or other commercial products — although cosmetics such as topicals and salves are already widely sold at national retailers such as Kroger, CVS and Walgreens.

Where does the popular assumption that CBD is regulated come from? Cannabidiol (CBD) can be derived from industrial hemp, which was legalized last year. Jeff Lawrence, director of environmental health and sustainability at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, says that with hemp's federal approval via the 2018 Farm Bill, more consumers believe CBD products are now legal and regulated — even though that's not the case, as the Farm Bill only legalized seed and fiber products from industrial hemp, and not CBD.

“CBD is a commodity that has started over the past few years,” Lawrence says. “We see it especially in Colorado, where the approval of marijuana and other products deriving from that plant family has been somewhat progressive.”

According to Lawrence, Colorado has made strides in CBD regulation over the past several years to further oversee it at the state level. In 2018, the Colorado Legislature legalized hemp and hemp-derived CBD as an additive in food and cosmetics.

“There’s an approval and use of things that weren’t used before in the state,” says Lawrence. “CBD being approved is just an example of that.”

Although states with legalized marijuana and progressive hemp laws, such as Colorado and Oregon, have been regulating the use of CBD, the FDA wasn't able to easily research CBD until recently. Before the Farm Bill was passed, hemp was considered a controlled substance by the federal government — just like THC-heavy marijuana and heroin — and its studies were overseen by the Drug Enforcement Administration. However, with the cultivation of hemp now federally legal, Lawrence says there’s a change in federal research of CBD.

“The FDA didn’t have the capacity to look at CBD from a medicinal standpoint at first,” he says. “CBD is the ingredient the FDA was weighing on, and is now trying to figure out what it exactly is.”

Although the FDA is still figuring out how CBD should be regulated, the agency has maintained that adding it to products meant for consumption is still illegal. Despite this, the CBD business is booming, and the FDA has admitted it's focusing efforts elsewhere right now. To flex its muscle, the FDA recently sent warning letters to fifteen different CBD companies for making health claims deemed too bold by the department. One of those companies, Infinite CBD, is headquartered in Lakewood.

Until the FDA announces a decision on what future regulations will be, it’s up to consumers to decide on which CBD products to use, and to further research CBD and how it could affect them. This includes looking at CBD product labeling, and researching a company's lab testing procedures and reputation; numerous reports show the amount of THC, CBD and chemical additives in CBD products can be higher or lower than advertised.

According to Lawrence, CBD product testing is a key issue for Governor Jared Polis's administration and the CDPHE. “With any emerging industry, there are those intending to do it well, and those who are only looking to make a dollar. We’re looking to make sure that CBD products have clear labels saying they’re derived from hemp and have the correct dosage,” he explains.

Lawrence hopes the growing popularity of CBD products will persuade state departments in Colorado and across the nation to further research CBD and create newer regulations.

“As the allowance of hemp as an agricultural crop becomes more mainstream across the country, state departments will align and perceive the benefits of it,” he says. “And that’s whether it’s in Colorado or in other states.”
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