Since the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018 federally legalizing the commercial production of hemp, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is everywhere. You can find it as straight oil, in food, in supplements, in cosmetics, and for pets. A big part of why CBD has become so popular is due to numerous studies providing further and further proof of its health benefits, ranging from its ability to treat epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and so much more. While absolute proof of CBD’s therapeutic properties still requires more research, it’s only a matter of time and the clinical studies continue to compound.
Despite the legality of CBD, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has of yet only approved of one CBD-derived product, Epidiolex, for the treatment of a rare form of epilepsy. The rest of the CBD products currently for sale remain unregulated, which means their quality and safety is hard to know. When you buy any product with CBD in it, from CBD oil to gummies to supplements, you’re taking those products at your own risk. The purity of a CBD product remains at the discretion of the companies selling it. After testing CBD products, contaminants like pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals have been found, and their product labels don’t mention any of that. Other tests show that many CBD products are mislabeled. They contain more or less CBD than they say, or they contain THC, the psychoactive component of the marijuana plant that makes people feel high, when the label says the product is pure CBD. It’s hard to know what you’re getting, and that’s why there has been a push for FDA regulation in the CBD market.
The reason behind the FDA’s delay in the approval of CBD-based products has to do with the limited information about its effects on the body. At the heart of the FDA’s decisions is the impact a substance will have on the American public where health and safety are concerned. While many studies provide promising data about how CBD can help us in a variety of ways, promising data is not enough. Any substance that is intended for therapeutic use sold in the US must have FDA approval. As such, it is illegal for CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement based on the current science available, though many CBD products on the market today are labeled this way anyway.
The good news is that the FDA had its first public hearing on CBD in June, where experts were asked to provide research and recommendations to begin the process of how to regulate the substance, particularly for non-drug uses. Commenters at the hearing voiced their concerns about the need for regulatory oversight of CBD products that includes straightforward safety standards, active enforcement, additional research into therapeutic benefits, consistent terminology used for the products, and recognizing and remedying the issue of product quality.
In the meantime, the best course of action to take when purchasing and using CBD products is to scrutinize the source. Buy products from a place you trust. Look for products that provide information on the label about concentration percentages, if the product as been tested for contaminants, and if the company abides by good manufacturing practices.