The U.S. Food and Drug Administration âhas signaled concern as CBD products started flooding the consumer market in the past year and warned a handful of companies for illegally selling those products in ways that violate federal law,â LNPâs Heather Stauffer reported Wednesday. âLast week the agency got more specific, updating a consumer advisory to say that the compound derived from hemp or marijuana that does not cause a high still âhas the potential to harm youâ â and issuing warning letters to 15 more companies.â CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound found in the cannabis plant that does not cause a high. In Pennsylvania,Â CBD sold to general consumers must be from hemp; only medical marijuana dispensaries may offer CBD from marijuana.
The âpotential to harm you.â
Let that sink in for a minute.
Sure, you might think, everything has the potential to cause harm â a car ride, a hard pretzel eaten too quickly, some artery-clogging french fries.
Thatâs why we need to drive carefully, chew slowly and limit fried foods in our diet.
We need to think carefully about our use of CBD, too.
We shouldnât use any random CBD product â gummies, teas, tinctures, oils, or in whatever form we find it at our local gas station or convenience store.
This is what FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy said: âWe 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 âcanât hurt.â â
âAside from one prescription drug approved to treat two pediatric epilepsy disorders,â she continued, âthese products have not been approved by the FDA, and we want to be clear that a number of questions remain regarding CBDâs safety â including reports of products containing contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals â and there are real risks that need to be considered.â
One more thing: According to the FDA, it is currently âillegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.â
Hereâs some of what is known about CBD, according to the FDA: It can cause liver injury. It can affect the metabolism of other drugs, causing serious side effects. It can cause gastrointestinal distress, most commonly diarrhea. And it can cause mood changes, most commonly irritability and agitation.
The unknowns are far greater, and, as Stauffer reported, they include: âthe effects of taking it daily for long periods of time, how it affects developing brains, how it interacts with herbs and botanicals, and whether it could negatively affect a manâs fertility.â
As a Harvard Medical School publication pointed out last month, âThere are a lot of extravagant product claims out there about the benefits of CBD … but little high-quality research supports them.â
Indeed, CBD products are marketed as remedies for everything from anxiety to chronic pain. But as physicians Rose McKeon Olson and Eve Rittenberg wrote on the Harvard Health Blog, there are no ârigorous studies and long-term data to prove whether or not a wide range of CBD products are safe for everyone.â
And because âCBD products arenât regulated by the FDA in the way that drugs are, there is huge variation in quality and, quite possibly, safety.â
Some manufacturers of CBD products say they welcome more regulation.
Among them is Floydâs of Leadville, a Colorado-based CBD company founded by Lancaster County native Floyd Landis. As Stauffer reported, Floydâs products, âranging from creams to gummies to drinks, are sold in stores including Rutterâs and Sheetz.â
Jake Sitler, director of business for Floydâs, said the company â seeking to get into major retailers â has embraced the need to do everything by the book and self-regulate as the industry develops.
Self-regulation is inadequate.
As reader Drew William Anderson commented beneath Staufferâs article on LancasterOnline, the article should have been headlined: âLack of FDA regulation increases chances of unsafe CBD products.â
Heâs right, of course. CBD ought to be regulated â and more thoroughly researched.
Olson and Rittenberg noted that the reason that medical research on CBD is so thin is âpartly because laws on marijuana made it difficult to study.â
We hope to see this change in the future.
In the meantime, buyer beware â and be proactive: Check with your physician before you use any CBD product. Your physician can help you decide whether itâs worth the risk.
If you think trying CBD canât hurt, you may be wrong.
And if a manufacturer or seller tells you with certainty it wonât hurt you, be skeptical. CBD is certainly not a sure bet.