A new wellness trend sparked when Congress opted to end federal CBD prohibition last year. You can get CBD-infused soda, candy, bath bombs, topicals and other products from your local grocery store or even gas station.
But last week, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning: “CBD has the potential to harm you, and can happen even before you become aware of it.” The agency also issued a warning to 15 companies for illegally selling it as a food or dietary supplement.
So is CBD a new alternative medicine, snake oil, or a dangerous product?
David Downs, California Bureau Chief for the cannabis website Leafly, says it’s safe and can be an effective medical remedy, as long as it’s from a licensed cannabis dispensary.
“Studies show that the CBD molecule in humans can treat seizures, pain, anxiety, insomnia and a number of other uses. And that’s in animal and limited human trials,” he says. “But what's missing is full-blown FDA placebo controlled trials.
Products from dispensaries go through a state’s licensed testing system that identifies what exactly they contain. But the products from grocery stores, gas stations and head shops don’t go through the same process.
Downs’ team at Leafly tested 47 products and found that 51% were accurately labeled, 11 were inadequately labeled (there was more CBD inside than advertised), and seven contained no CBD whatsoever. Downs says products like these that make medical and dietary claims are doing so illegally, and that’s what has the FDA worried.
Downs adds, “The FDA is following up on questions they had earlier this year during a hearing about potential drug interactions with the liver. We saw early on in some studies of kids on seizure medications who added CBD, they needed to dial back the amount of seizure medications they were taking because the CBD was working, and the seizure medication was building up in their body and it was potentially toxic.”
But to reach those dangerous toxicity levels, you would have to eat about six jars of CBD gummies, Downs says.
The DEA categorizes some substances as “Schedule I,” meaning they have no approved medical use and can be easily abused. Downs says the DEA needs to remove CBD from the “Schedule I” category, a process called “federal rescheduling.” And so, consumers know exactly what the safe levels are, depending on their body type.
Federal rescheduling appears more likely now. Last year’s Farm Bill approved hemp cultivation, and states are continuing to develop their own guidelines for growing.
CBD from the right source could be a benefit for some, and the future for more medical research looks bright.