As you know, many CBD manufacturers across the country make claims that their products can treat, mitigate, and prevent a variety of health concerns.
Today, Consumers for Safe CBD sent the letter below to Attorneys General asking that they protect consumers in their state from unapproved and potentially dangerous CBD products. Especially during these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for our Attorneys General to use their authority and protect their state from unsubstantiated medical claims.
Dear Attorney General [NAME],
Over the past few years, consumer products containing the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD) have proliferated across the U.S. CBD oils, foods and beverages are now sold online and in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, vitamin/supplement stores, even coffee shops throughout our communities.
Unfortunately, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers CBD foods and supplements unlawful, these products are not subject to the same regulation and monitoring as other consumer goods. As a result, CBD products are often marketed in ways that pose serious risks to consumers. Particularly as our states and communities work together to fight COVID-19, we know there is an increased risk of fraud and bad actors.
Today, we at Consumers for Safe CBD, a program created by the National Consumers League (NCL) in partnership with Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA), write to you to respectfully request that you utilize your robust consumer protection authority to protect [STATE] against harms posed by CBD manufacturers’ deceptive marketing practices.
As the primary enforcer of [STATE] consumer protection laws, you play a critical role in protecting the safety and wellbeing of your constituents. We applaud the steps state attorneys general have taken to date to protect consumers against potential harms posed by CBD products, including:
The National Association of Attorneys General letter to the FDA, signed by a bipartisan group of 37 attorneys general, emphasizing the need for attorneys general to play a role in protecting consumers from harms posed by misleading advertising, quality defects and undisclosed risks of use related to CBD products.
Actions by Attorney General James (NY) and Attorney General Rosenblum (OR) to stop CBD manufacturers from marketing their products as a treatment for symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Statements issued by Attorney General Miller (IA) and Attorney General Ravnsborg (SD) warning constituents of the illegality of ingestible CBD products under state and federal law.
These important efforts have undoubtedly helped inform and protect consumers, but deceptive marketing practices within the CBD industry persist.
These practices can cause not only adverse consequences for CBD consumers but can also endanger public safety more generally. Given your office’s consumer protection authority, you are uniquely positioned to protect the public against these harms.
Our recent polling demonstrates the public’s overwhelming support for regulation and enforcement efforts aimed at protecting consumers from harms posed by CBD products. In particular, Consumers for Safe CBD is concerned about the following marketing practices commonly employed by CBD companies:
Failure to disclose the significant levels of tetrahyrdocannabinols (THC) contained in ingestible CBD products. Ingestible CBD products commonly contain significant amounts of THC, the cannabis-derived compound that causes users to experience a “high.” However, manufacturers of these products often fail to disclose THC content on the product packaging or labeling. These omissions can result in serious consequences (i.e., failed drug test or impairment, a significant concern when someone unknowingly ingests THC and risks termination from a job or endangering themselves and others while driving). The press has reported several incidents where an individual consumes a CBD product believing the product does not contain THC, but later fails a drug test as a result of the THC contained in the product.
Marketing products with significant quality defects that can result in harm to consumers. Study after study shows that contaminated or mislabeled CBD products frequently reach consumers. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the cannabinoid profile of numerous popular CBD products and found that, in 70% of the products tested, the product label either significantly overstated or understated the product’s actual CBD content. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 31 people in Utah sought emergency room treatment after ingesting CBD products that contained a synthetic cannabinoid, but no CBD. And a 2019 study of the top-selling 240 CBD products on the market testing for 300 different contaminants found that 70% of products included were "highly contaminated" with heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, BPA and mold.
Marketing products with unsubstantiated health claims aimed at vulnerable populations. Through websites, across social media, in press releases and articles, and on third-party platforms, manufacturers of CBD foods and supplements market their products as safe and effective treatments for serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This marketing practice is not only illegal under state and federal law, it also puts consumers at risk. The FDA and other federal regulators have frequently expressed concerns that these marketing tactics “…may deter consumers from seeking proven, safe medical therapies for serious illnesses – potentially endangering their health or life.” Since 2015, the FDA has issued roughly 60 warning letters to companies selling CBD products with unsubstantiated health claims, but the problem is far more widespread than that.
Each of these marketing practices jeopardizes consumer health and violates state consumer protection laws. At a time when Americans are looking for any hope and solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are increasingly concerned about the deceptive practices some marketers can, have, and will employ. We appreciate that state attorneys general have recognized the potential harms posed by unregulated CBD products and have taken steps to address those harms, but significant public health challenges remain.
We respectfully request that you utilize your robust consumer protection authority to investigate and hold CBD manufacturers accountable for the deceptive marketing practices described above.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. We hope to serve as a resource in your efforts. Please visit 4safecbd.org for more information and do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.
National Consumers League (NCL)
Arthur T. Dean
Major General, U.S. Army, Retired
Chairman and CEO, CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America)
Director of Food Policy
Consumer Federation of America (CFA)