Apparently the CBD industry is no longer content to be cannabis’ quiet little sister. 

If you’ve been living under a rock, maybe you haven’t yet heard that CBD industry sales are on track to reach FIVE BILLION DOLLARS this year.  That’s 5 and a lot of zeros.  It’s an increase of more than 700% over last year, to give you an idea of the massive growth in CBD product sales year over year.  

And if you’ve been in the cannabis industry for any length of time, you know that (until now) CBD has been the quiet little sister to the THC based segment of the industry; fairly content being relegated to single hallways in the back corner of regional shows, and without any cohesive representation at the larger ones. 

[LISTEN: FDA says CBD is drug and will regulate – PODCAST EPISODE]

With the passage of the Farm Bill last year (2018), hemp and hemp derived products such as CBD (not to be confused legally with cannabis based CBD) suddenly became even more ‘legal’ than THC based products, and the floodgates have been opened.  You can literally buy CBD products – or at least products claiming to have CBD in them – everywhere.  Amazon, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Big Al’s Mini-mart, Flying J Truck Stops…  the list of places that don’t sell CBD is probably smaller than the ones who do carry the products. 

Almost everyone that we have ever met in the CBD industry has been very real, very much on the up and up, and very small, production and sales-wise, when it comes down to it.  But those days are over, I suspect, and we are potentially looking at the end of the line for a lot, if not all, of the mom and pop producers and distributors.

[READ: Trade show saturation point – are we there yet? – ARTICLE]

The FDA stepped in a few months back, and claimed jurisdiction over the nascent CBD industry.  We’ve talked about the how and why manner in which they rightfully claim jurisdiction under US law; once Epidiolex was approved as a drug, that technically makes all CBD products a drug.  And if the delivery method is oral, topical, or sublingual, well, they are in charge of it.  And if your product makes ANY claim to do anything – unless that claim is couched in very specific terms (do a search for neutricuticals and FDA to find out more about how specific the wording must be to avoid trouble), then the FDA has dominion over the product.  

I’ll take snake oil for $800 please, Alex!

We’ve got a new problem on our hands in the CBD industry at the moment, however.  That problem is that there are too many products being sold as CBD which do not contain enough CBD, do not have any CBD in them, have not been tested for the presence of other, dangerous chemicals, or they may even contain potentially harmful chemicals or other drugs instead of CBD. 

[DEMO: See how the platform works for your cannabis business – SIGNUP]

It doesn’t appear from news reports that anyone has actually died from ingesting any of these fake products yet, but the reports of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to fake CBD products are becoming more numerous, and that is a very bad thing for the industry as we know it.  Small producers don’t have millions of dollars and years to wait for FDA approvals to sell a product that they will likely be unable to make money on by the time approvals are granted – too many large companies from within the industry and outside it are much more well funded and can play the long game with the cards they are holding.  

I’m really not sure what steps as an industry can be taken to offset these issues, but it’s also impossible for the CBD industry to continue to grow and thrive if snake oil becomes the prevalent product on store shelves instead of real product that might actually help those who need it.  

Together we can be better. 

I would like to see our industry trade groups – NCIA, MJBA, CBA, etc – actively take up this cause, and work with legislators to encourage the FDA to work with smaller producers, rather than just working with large groups that have large war chests.  I’m not really sure how we go about getting this started, but I think that talking to the folks in charge of the trade associations and explaining that CBD industry businesses pay dues just like THC oriented ones do might be the starting point. 


As we go into the fall season, it’s time for the NCIA Caucus meetings to resume, and this is a perfect opportunity to speak with the leadership and get everyone moving in the same direction.