On March 5, 2020, Digital Citizens Alliance, a non-profit organization that is consumer-oriented and focused on educating the public and policymakers on the threats that consumers face on the internet, released a new report on cannabidiol (CBD) products. The report, titled “CBD Confusion: How Consumers Can Be Misled and Why the Market Needs Adult Supervision Now,” presents the findings of the organization’s investigation into CBD products sold online and the results of national surveys to assess Americans’ use and understanding of CBD products.
The report found that CBD levels among these products varied significantly than what was advertised, with half of the products containing 20 percent higher or lower concentrations of CBD compared to the product’s packaging. Of the products that were tested, there was on average a 30 percent variation on the amount listed on the product’s packaging and what was contained in the product. The report also found that consumers are generally unaware of the regulatory status of CBD, with only one in four consumers understanding that CBD is not regulated by the federal government. Additionally, Digital Citizens Alliance found that many online retailers falsely informing consumers that CBD products are regulated federally.
Alarmingly, the report found that many consumers are turning to CBD products as a replacement for other medications, with 70 percent having reported doing so and 46 percent having reported using CBD products as a replacement for prescription medications. Among those who have used a CBD product to replace a medication, 53 percent reported having replaced pain medication, 48 percent reporting having replaced anxiety medication, and 29 percent reported having replaced depression medication.
This report was published as the CBD market has doubled in size between 2018 and 2020, totaling $1.1 billion in sales. Without adequate oversight and regulation, consumers could be placing their trust in products that are untested and unproven. To address this growing issue, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Congress should act with urgency to develop regulations for CBD products that will ensure that consumer safety is prioritized. These regulations should allow for oversight of product manufacturing, product testing, product labeling, active ingredient levels, advertising, and distribution.