Companies selling cannabidiol products face an uncertain future after the Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update that detailed the potential harmful effects of CBD.
The FDA currently endorses only one CBD product, a prescription drug product to treat severe forms of epilepsy, and has not approved other products because of limited data on CBD safety. According to the consumer update, CBD has potentially harmful side effects, like liver damage, and there is a lack of data about the long-term effects of CBD, which is why the agency has not yet approved the vast majority of existing CBD products.
Fifteen companies received warnings from the FDA for illegally selling CBD products that have not been approved, one of which included Infinite CBD in Lakewood.
“We remain concerned that some people wrongly think that the myriad of CBD products on the market, many of which are illegal, have been evaluated by the FDA and determined to be safe, or that trying CBD ‘can’t hurt,’” FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said in the update.
Under the FDA’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, regulations about the use and selling of CBD and hemp products are outlined, and although the 2018 farm bill removed certain hemp products from federal law jurisdiction, the FDA preserves its authority to regulate cannabis-related products under the act.
There are a number of companies selling CBD products in Durango, and despite the FDA’s warnings, these companies remain dedicated to ensuring the safety of their products.
Dontje Hildebrand, co-owner of 43 CBD Solutions in Durango, stressed transparency in the products that he sells and believes knowing what is used in CBD products is one of the main things that the FDA is looking for.
“We code all of our batches and do all of our testing, and we make that traceable in every-single bottle available,” Hildebrand said. “So you can go straight to the pesticides, heavy metals and cannabinoid tests that show our transparency.”
The FDA is trying to take care of people who are using CBD for medical purposes, Hildebrand said, and once specific data comes out on what CBD actually does, products will be endorsed.
The founder of Two Bears Hemp Farm in Durango, Sara Sheeler, said the FDA’s warnings are “obfuscating what’s actually going on” in that many CBD-related illnesses have been attributed to vaping.
“Vaping in and of itself is a potentially hazardous endeavor because the chemicals that are in the vape, either the oil itself or some of the flavorings, can be very dangerous and not regulated by the U.S. government as it pertains to inhalation,” Sheeler said. “So a flavoring that you and I might use to make cookies has been used to flavor vape juice, but there have been no studies on what happens to your lungs.”
Sheeler also stressed the lack of knowledge about where the CBD is coming from, in that a lot of the product is grown outside the U.S. and is often tainted with things that consumers would not want to put in their bodies.
“If you had a hamburger last night, that hamburger came from a cow which was fed a boatload of corn, and that corn was probably doused with Roundup, and in all things being equal, the ground that it was farmed was not tested for heavy metals or contaminants of any kind,” Sheeler said. “That creates a potential health issue, but here we are in the corner huddled around CBD, and I think it bears further examination on a larger basis.”
The FDA’s decisions are often politicized, Sheeler said, so it is hard for her to know what stances the agency will take on CBD in the future. However, she does not think the warnings will affect her sales and the views of her consumers.
“We are farm direct, so our customers know that when they purchase our products or use our products, they’re coming from a farm that employs real people, and we have all kinds of test results to show that our product is clean,” Sheeler said. “What’s in the bottle, or the jar, or the vape cartridge, we do not know, so people should ask questions, but I don’t think it’ll affect my business.”
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.