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What You Need to Know about the FDA's Guidance on CBD

What You Need to Know about the FDA's Guidance on CBD

There has been a lot of expectation on the worldwide acceptance of CBD since the onset of 2019. The cannabis industry was expected to surge in growth from previous years, what with Canada haven just started weed sales for recreational purposes as of October 2018, and President Trump legalizing the industrial production of hemp and its derivatives.

No doubt, the excitement surrounding CBD was as a result of its purported health benefits, and its non-psychoactive nature. CBD doesn’t get users high, unlike THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. This has created a broader patient tool for CBD-infused products.

More so, the signing of the farm bill into law has allowed other general stores, not just dispensaries, to sell CBD-infused products. This retail presence will no doubt boost the CBD sales in the cannabis industry. It’s also worth mentioning that the U.S. population is larger than Canada, thus providing even a bigger opportunity for hemp-derived CBD products.

Brightfield Group, a leading consumer insights firm for the cannabis industry has projected the U.S. CBD sales to hit $23.7 billion by 2023. Compared to just $600 million in 2018, one would see that CBD is growing at a faster rate than cannabis as a whole.

The CBD stand of FDA

There has been concerns on the future of CBD products following the recent consumer update by the FDA. The agency noted in reference to the cannabis-derived drug, Epidolex from GW Pharmaceuticals; that CBD has potential side effects that might not be quickly noticed by consumers. The agency also pointed out that there are a lot of important aspects of CBD they don’t know yet.

Although Epidolex has been previously approved for the treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy in 2018, it was discovered that the drug causes liver injury in some patients. This doesn’t in any way reduce the efficacy of the drug in treatment of seizure. However, as far as the FDA is concerned, this proves that CBD doesn’t have a clean bill of health.

The consumer update from the FDA was as a result of the ongoing assessment of the compound as an additive to beverages, food, and dietary supplements. According to the findings of the FDA, it’s likely that the agency is not going to grant any company the ability of adding CBD to food and beverages. This news was not taken well by stakeholders, but there is nothing anybody can do about it. FDA still hold all the aces as far as CBD-infused products are concerned. 

Here are things to note about the FDA consumer update on CBD

Actually, this update is not as bad as it sounds. Firstly, an update from FDA on the safety of CBD products was expected. The FDA promised to release an update on the progress of its assessment of data and testimony as relates to CBD, and that’s what they did.

More still, the agency has always been upfront when it comes to challenging the various misleading health claims about CBD. For example, last July, Curaleaf Holdings, one of the leading cannabis operators in the U.S. received a warning from the FDA about their unverifiable claims for a variety of their CBD products. Although the company responded quickly to the mentioned deficiencies, it still cost them a possible distribution deal with CVS Health.

Secondly, it’s probably going to take FDA a lot of time to develop an official guideline for CBD as an additive to food and beverages.

According to Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, it takes the agency approximately two to three years to develop the regulatory framework for the addition of any new substance into the food supply. Nevertheless, he added that it could take even longer than that to develop guidelines for CBD use, because of Federal government’s illicit classification of marijuana. Although Gottlieb may no longer be the head of FDA, a lot of policies he implemented during his tenure is still active today. So, you can say this is more than just an opinion.   

Thirdly, this consumer update on CBD should have minimal impact on products outside of foods and beverages in the U.S. This means that other CBD products like oils and topicals are still allowed, provided that the manufacturers don’t make unsubstantiated medical claims about the products.

In line with this, the worries about Charlotte's Web, a CBD market share leader, shouldn’t hold much water. Charlotte’s Web built its brand of products on a variety of oils and topical products, and as such, there shouldn’t be any issue. Moreover, their distribution deals with Kroger and Vitamin Shoppe show that they don’t have anything to worry about.

Lastly, the update will not affect the food and beverage industry in Canada. Even though the FDA has taken precaution on including CBD as an additive in the food and beverage industry in the U.S., this will not affect Canada’s launch of CBD-infused foods. Hemp-derivatives are set to hit Canadian dispensaries any moment from now, so whatever stance the FDA has taken is solely for the U.S. alone.

Take for instance, in Dec. 11, Fluent Beverages, a joint venture between Anheuser-Busch InBev and Tilray, launched its first CBD-infused beverage in Canada. The beverage brand, known as Everie is quite refreshing and contains 98% pure CBD, with all-natural flavours.

In conclusion, investors and stakeholders should be careful when researching CBD companies in the industry. The FDA may have put a hold on the inclusion of CBD as an additive to food and beverages, but it’s not the end of it all. More updates are sure to follow in the near future.

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