As multiple forms of medicine come to the forefront, here’s what you need to know about CBD oil that is helping multiple people’s ailments. USA TODAY
New Yorkâ€™s recreational marijuana battle sits on the front line of a generational war over American cannabis laws. As debate heats up, USA TODAY Network New York is compiling answers to key questions about legalized cannabis.
Federal authorities seem poised to tighten restrictions on CBD-brand cannabis products already being sold throughout the state just as New York’s recreational marijuanaÂ push is rebooting.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is typically sold as cannabis-derived oils, creams and capsules, which is legal in New York and across the country because it lacks marijuanaâ€™s psychoactive element.
Yet concerns about bogus CBD marketing and products threatening users have ignited calls for U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight, a potential turning point for the CBD industry on pace to hit $16 billion in sales by 2025, experts say.
The CBD craze exploded after Congress passed the Farm Bill last year, which made some cannabis plants legal, USA TODAY Network reported.
So far, federal regulators have only approved medical grade CBD for treating severe epilepsy, handling other CDB products claiming to treat everything from anxiety and insomnia to pain and depression similar to nutritional supplements.
Some companies touting cannabidiol as a cancer cure, however, received warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration, suggesting a pending crackdown on CBD medical claims.
What follows is an analysis of the CBD industry in New York as part of the USA TODAY Networkâ€™s ongoing investigation of the cannabis economy.
From humble beginnings in legal weed states like Colorado, the CBD boom in New York recently put cannabis goods on shelves everywhere from health spas and fashion boutiques to vape shops and bodegas.
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Meanwhile, online shoppers have plenty of CBD choices through retailers like Amazon. Pharmacy giants Walgreens and CVS in March also announced plans to offer CBD at hundreds of stores, despite uncertainty about the potency and quality of some products sold through the existing marketplace.
More than 70% of CBD extracts sold online, for instance, were mislabeled regarding potency, according to a Penn Medicine study in 2017.
In addition to poor quality controls, confusion about the legality of selling CBD-infused food and drinks has some consumers and legitimate businesses awaiting further clarification from state and federal regulators.
Robert Posenato, co-founder of Hudson Valley CBD, which sells cannabis products online as well as to five stores in New York, is one of the supporters of FDA oversight of the industry.
â€śItâ€™ll help some of those bad companies fall off along the wayside, and those who arenâ€™t testing or following ethical procedures will disappear,â€ť he said.
Posenatoâ€™s tale of becoming a cannabis entrepreneur seemingly overnight underscored the CBD gold rush underway.
He started out last year buying CBD products from Colorado and having them shipped to his Tuckahoe apartment in Westchester County, where they got labeled before heading off to retailersÂ or online customers.
Hudson Valley CBD’s overall sales hit $100,000 inÂ itsÂ first year, prompting aÂ relocationÂ to an East Rutherford, New Jersey office last month, said Posenato, who hopes to quit his day job in tech for Konica Minolta and focus on cannabis despite growing competition.
As a CBD user, Posenato banks on telling his story to sell products and distance the brand from the industryâ€™s shady underbelly.
â€śI personally donâ€™t walk out there and tell anybody itâ€™s a cure-all thatâ€™s going to fix everyoneâ€™s problems,â€ť he said.
Having switched from taking pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drugs, the 32-year-old aspiring cannabis mogul described CBD as a milder alternative.
â€śItâ€™s not going to fix, alleviate or cure any pain, anxiety or stress, but the true honest to God way it works is… to make that pain, anxiety or stress more manageable. Itâ€™s almost like turning the volume down,â€ť said Posenato, whoÂ also takes medical marijuana for back pain stemming from a car crash.
Hudson Valley CBDâ€™s quality controls include testing the products it buys from a company called Ubix through laboratories in Colorado based on that state’s regulations, Posenato said. Its creams, capsules and tinctures cost between about $45 and $89.
CBD shoppers should look for a certificate of analysis that details potency and testing results that ensure products are free of residual solvents and heavy metals, he added.
In addition to supporting FDA oversight, Posenato backs legalizing recreational pot in New York, notwithstanding the powerful cannabis companies’ track record of taking over marketplaces in other states.
â€śRecreational coming to the state only gives me additional locations to try to get my product into view,â€ť he said. â€śI really donâ€™t see it as a downside to my business.â€ť
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is holding a key public hearing on May 31 regarding its regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, such as CBD.
A USA TODAY Network review of the 550-plus hearing comments submitted online to the FDA offered a glimpse into the high-stakes battle.
An overwhelmingly majority of comments supported keeping CBD products widely available, as well as legalizing cannabis in general. Some were anonymous, and others included names that are difficult to verify due to a lack of details, such as state of residence.
Pro-CBD comments included business owners selling cannabis-infused drinks and oils, as well as self-identified consumers reporting it treated everything from high blood pressureÂ to skin rashes.
Some of the anecdotal praise for cannabis evoked the cadence of infomercial testimonials.
My skeptical 76-year-old Italian mother had aches and pains until I gave her cannabis, one comment read, and my chocolate Labrador got antsy for long car rides, but then I gave him some cannabis and now he calmly looks out the window like a good dog.
CommentsÂ calling for tighter regulation, or outright prohibition, mainly focused on concerns about tainted cannabis products hitting shelves. Some described unsavory cannabis marketing pushing productsÂ like snake oil salesman on the Wild West carnival circuit.
â€śJust make all of it legal and regulated so harmful or adulterated products are kept out,â€ť one comment read.
Yet detailed and harrowing stories of medical grade cannabis being used to treat epilepsy, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder are also peppered throughout the stream of mostly pro-marijuana comments.
Some supporters still called for improved regulation of packaging, labeling and testing standards. Others requested that CBD products beÂ treated like herbal supplements and vitamins that are far more loosely regulated than pharmaceutical drugs.
Meanwhile, as clinical research slowly catches up with anecdotal praise, some medical professionals were cautiously optimistic about the potential benefits of CBD during the Association of Health Care Journalists conference earlier this month.
â€śItâ€™s probably not going to be magic, but itâ€™s probably not going to be the devilâ€™s oil,â€ť said Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. â€śItâ€™s probably going to be somewhere in-between and some patients will benefit from it.â€ť
For further details about the FDA hearing on May 31, visit its website here.
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