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CBD Advertising: Don’t Get Caught in the Weeds

It’s high time for CBD advertising regulation according to the FDA and FTC. The agencies sent letters to three companies -Nutra Pure LLC, PotNetwork Holdings, Inc. and Advanced Spine and Pain, LLC – who sell and advertise products containing cannabidiol (“CBD”).  Upon review of the companies’ websites, the agencies determined that the advertising might violate the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims.

Products such as “CBD Salve”, “Hemp Oil”, and “Liquid Gold Gummies” were advertised as being able to treat diseases like cancer, fibromyalgia, and Alzheimer’s.  Other examples of the claims include:

  • “Studies suggest that cannabinoids may be a new class of drugs for the treatment of chronic pain.”

  • “Cannabidiol may provide treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

  • “CBD . . . can possibly be used as a therapeutic agent for treatment of type 1 diabetes at an early stage of the disease.”

  • “Researchers suggest that it may be effective for panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Hemp (from which CBD is derived) along with marijuana, heroin and other narcotics were considered Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), part of the FDA. The CSA still regulates marijuana and marijuana “derived” products (those that contain a .3% or more level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)), but the Farm Bill passed in 2018 legalized hemp. This regulation has prompted a host of drugs and other products using CBD to enter the mainstream marketplace.

Recently the FDA approved the use of CBD in one anti-epilepsy medicine, but retailers and manufacturers should not take this as a license to advertise false and misleading claims about their own CBD based products. The FDA conducts rigorous and thorough testing for any new drug and all health claims must be backed up by supporting data.

Because many of the products sold by the companies targeted in the letters were in fact advertised “for the for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease” or to “affect the structure or function of the body”, they would be subject to the FDA regulations. Advertising such use without substantiation is also false and misleading, and a potential violation of the FTC Act.

Why this Matters.  The Farm Bill of 2018 only regulates hemp  but 41 states have legalized marijuana in some form. The popularization and legalization of hemp and marijuana will help grow a potentially massive industry, but it also highlights the importance of providing truthful, substantiated claims with regard to these kinds of products. Consult with an attorney or a resource who understands the applicable regulations so you don’t get caught in the weeds of a false advertising claim.

Addie Johnson