What’s Holding The CBD Industry Back in North America?

Photo Credit: Premium Jane

With the stroke of President Trump’s pen on the 2018 Farm Bill, a billion dollar industry was born.

The bill legalized hemp and all its byproducts at a Federal level, including its calming, curative cannabinoid: CBD. Industry analyst The Brightfield Group predicts that the hemp CBD market could hit $22 billion by 2022.

With hemp-derived CBD now legal in all 50 States and every province in Canada, entrepreneurs are scrambling to be ahead of the pack in CBD-infused products.

Taking CBD as an oil or in food has many benefits, but as regulators point out, still a lot of unknowns. As businesses are pushing to allow CBD-infused food and supplement products on the shelves of big-box chains, regulators in the US and Canada are pushing back.

Regardless, the legalization of CBD is a big win for advocates and the consumer demand is huge. A study by High Yield Insights of 2000 adults revealed that 1500 of them had tried a CBD product in the previous three months.

Businesses have recognized that CBD is not a passing fad – it could revolutionize recreational relaxation, skincare, and medicine as we know it.

Why is Everyone Going All-in on CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that is responsible for many of the medicinal benefits of weed. It provides a calming effect without the high of THC and is non-addictive. Many businesses want to market CBD food and drink products in the wellness category – a relaxing substance that is good for your health and less dangerous than alcohol.

CBD is also being added to beauty and skin care products. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to treat dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema. There are also early studies being conducted on its ability to treat acne by suppressing oil production in your pores.

One of CBD’s biggest benefits and also what has regulators concerned is its use in alternative medicine. CBD can act as a potent painkiller and is non-addictive, and many hope it will eventually be recognized widely as a substitute for opioids. It is used in large doses for insomnia, chronic stress, depression, epilepsy – and studies are being conducted on its cancer and Alzheimer’s fighting properties.

CBD has so many benefits that it is being treated as a super-substance. The cannabis business banking on its potential to revolutionize how we unwind and stay healthy.

What’s Holding CBD Back? Understanding The 2018 Farm Bill

The signing of the recent Farm Bill legalized hemp at the federal level, opening up the door to CBD products extracted from hemp. As with all things cannabis-related in the States, it comes with a lot of “buts.”

Hemp crops can now be freely cultivated and shipped across state lines. However, hemp plants must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Individual States and the Federal government share the regulatory planning and responsibility for enforcement.

Hemp-derived products are legal now that it is no longer a Schedule I substance. This means that CBD extracted specifically from hemp is legal. CBD derived from marijuana, however, is still illegal at a Federal-level.

The bill also put the FDA in charge of regulating CBD, and their caution is putting a damper on the dreams of CBD investors across the US.

Regulations Facing The CBD Market

In Canada where recreational cannabis is fully legal, CBD oil from both hemp and marijuana is available only at licensed recreational dispensaries. When edibles become available later this year, Health Canada has restricted its sale to the same licensed retailers. They are currently asking for public input on developing a “Cannabis Health Product” regulatory process for natural health products.

US CBD regulation sits in the wheelhouse of the FDA. Their caution surrounding it has prevented many large chains from wanting to stock products on their shelves. CBD sits in a regulatory gray area as both a food-additive and its potential as a drug. CBD is an active ingredient in Epidolex, the first FDA-approved prescription drug used to treat a rare form of epilepsy.

The FDA rules prevent CBD edibles from being shipped between states, and CBD can’t be marketed as a dietary supplement. These rules don’t apply to skin care products, however, as these products are not overseen by the FDA.

The FDA has also recently cracked down on companies who promote unfounded healing properties of CBD. While CBD helps people with various conditions, the number of studies backing up these findings are limited.

“While it’s true that CBD has shown promise in pre-clinical and animal trials in addressing a number of issues such as pain, anxiety, neuroinflammation and substance-use disorder, there’s still not nearly enough peer-reviewed research available,” said Ziva Cooper, research director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Overall, we have very little data on the therapeutic effects of cannabidiol.”

The FDA held a public hearing on May 31, 2019 to address the concerns CBD advocates. Stakeholders lobbied for the creation of regulatory processes with FDA oversight allowing for the marketing of CBD in food and dietary supplements.

While the FDA determines how to best proceed, they also have listed open questions about CBD that have yet to be answered:

  • How much CBD is safe to consume in a day? How does it vary depending on what form it’s taken?
  • Are there drug interactions that need to be monitored?
  • What are the impacts to special populations, like children, the elderly, and pregnant or lactating women?
  • What are the risks of long-term exposure?

Studies on CBD were limited due to its previously illegal status. With so much invested in the hemp and CBD industry, expect to see more studies in cannabis news as researchers scramble to answer these questions.

The CBD Industry Outlook

There is still a lot to learn about CBD, but the enthusiasm among businesses, researchers and consumers are immense. Hemp-derived CBD oil tinctures and topical products are widely available online in the US. The products are also beginning to pop-up on shelves.

CBD edibles are currently only legal in some States that have legalized marijuana and will be legal in Canada starting in October 2019. Many businesses in legal cannabis markets have already created lines of cannabis and CBD edibles. However, large brands like Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev are already plugging away at both CBD and cannabis drinks. They are banking on eventually gaining access to the wider market.

We are entering a brave new world with the popularity of CBD and continual rollout of marijuana legalization. Just don’t expect to see CBD-infused cereal at your supermarket anytime soon.