The commercial marketplace for CBD and CBD-infused products still largely remains the wild west – especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, predatory marketers and other unethical opportunists have engaged in various online and e-mail misinformation campaigns hyping the use of either whole-plant cannabis or CBD as a potential remedy for the COVID-19 virus.
For example, one CBD provider recently received warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission for improperly marketing the agent as a key component of its COVID-19 prevention package.
In Oregon, the state Attorney General ordered a Portland CBD retailers to remove misleading advertising claiming that the compound could boost one’s natural immunity to the virus.
In Vancouver, Canada, an unlicensed CBD distributor has come under fire for opining that their products can “help your body defend against COVID-19.”
And according to a recent article in Forbes.com, e-mail mass marketers are aggressively spamming in-boxes with a faux Fox News article promoting CBD oils and gummies as a novel COVID therapy.
Yet, despite these far-reaching and hyperbolic claims, there exists an absence of scientific data supporting the clinical efficacy of CBD as an antiviral agent.
According to a just-published review of the scientific literature, only “circumstantial evidence” exists at this time to suggest that CBD may possess antiviral activity – and only in a limited number of conditions, specifically in the treatment of hepatitis C and Karposi sarcoma. Further, this limited data solely consists of preclinical findings, not human studies.
By contrast, authors emphasized that there exists “no evidence from properly designed clinical trials to support the use of CBD for the treatment” of these or other conditions, such as the flu, West Nile virus, Ebola, or common cold viruses. Investigators concluded, “Claims about the benefits of using CBD on viral infections were largely supported by CBD online retailers and most often appear to be a biased interpretation of the scientific literature or a dishonest manipulation of the information for commercial purposes.”
I’ve previously warned in Cannabis Business Executive that inconsistencies in the quality, potency, and purity of many commercially available CBD products may ultimately lead to a mass consumer backlash, and further cautioned that the industry may not be able to maintain accelerated growth in such a ‘buyer beware’ marketplace. Similarly, an industry that fails to police its own and effectively push back against those making false or specious claims about the utility of its products – particularly during a public health crisis – will not be looked favorably upon by most consumers either now or in the future.
About Paul Armentano
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML— the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. His writing on cannabis and cannabis policy has appeared in over 1,000 publications, scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journals, as well as in more than two dozen textbooks and anthologies. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2013) and the author of the book, The Citizen’s Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws (Whitman Press, 2015).