Health

CBD boom prompts regulatory scrutiny

'Nobody's been allowed to do the research for all these years'

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Some use CBD pens that they believe help relieve pain from injuries.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Some use CBD pens that they believe help relieve pain from injuries.
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Got arthritis? Dry skin? Trouble sleeping or feeling stressed? The CBD industry claims it has the cure for you.

Such assertions are becoming increasingly common — and brazen — as the cannabis compound commonly known as CBD proliferates in drinks, baked goods, tinctures, body lotions and even bath salts.

While CBD generally is believed to be safe, scant research has been conducted on its medical and health benefits because cannabis long has been prohibited at the federal level.

The only clinically proven remedy is a treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. All other claims are anecdotal.

Now regulators are starting to pay closer attention. Earlier this month, New York health officials ordered bakeries and restaurants to stop adding cannabidiol, the formal name for CBD, to beverages and food.

In December the Food and Drug Administration made clear it’s illegal to market CBD products as dietary supplements.

“Nobody’s been allowed to do the research for all these years, so it’s a big open space where companies can say things without the data to back it up,” said Kent Hutchison, co-director of the University of Colorado’s CU Change Lab.

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CBD has been sold online for years, mostly to people already familiar with THC, the psychoactive sibling that gets you high. More recently, the legalization of marijuana in several states and the boom in wellness products have pushed CBD into the mainstream.

Consumers are putting it under their tongues, rubbing it on their sore muscles and guzzling seltzer infused with the trendy ingredient.

Retail sales of CBD more than quadrupled last year, according to the data company SPINS, with most purchases taking place at natural grocery stores.

A bottle of oil with 1,500 milligrams of “full-spectrum hemp oil” sells for $160 on the new website Standard Dose, while a container of Seventh Sense eucalyptus spearmint body lotion made by the cannabis business Green Growth Brands, with 75 milligrams of CBD, retails for $16.50.

One California company, called Good Bites, sells bags of four CBD macaroons for $20, which gets you a total of 100 milligrams. Populum, based in Tempe, Ariz., sells a one-fluid-ounce bottle that contains 19 milligrams of CBD for $99.

Analysts expect the CBD market to be worth more than $20 billion by 2022, up from roughly $600 million now.

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