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Companies and consumers are talking in a different way these days about cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant. But even as the conversation changes, one thing remains the same. Before making claims about purported health effects of CBD products, advertisers need sound science to support their statements. That’s the message of warning letters FTC staff just sent to three businesses that sell oils, creams, capsules, and gummies that contain CBD.

The companies sell different products, but a common theme in their ads is the emphasis on CBD as a treatment or cure for serious diseases. Some of the ads even specified medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, heart disease, and stroke.

The gist of the warning letters is that the companies should review their product promises – including representations conveyed through testimonials – to ensure they’re backed up by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Like any other advertiser, CBD sellers who make unsubstantiated health claims could be subject to law enforcement. The letters instruct the companies to contact FTC staff within 15 days with the specifics of how they’re addressing the agency’s concerns.

If your company or clients are following developments in the CBD marketplace, the letters shouldn’t come as a surprise. In March 2019, the FTC and FDA sent similar letters to other CBD sellers. The takeaway tip for anyone in the industry is that established FTC substantiation standards apply when advertisers make health-related representations for CBD products.
 

11 Comments

Sciencefan
September 10, 2019
2 warning letters - no action When is FTC or FDA actually going to take action? These letters are not a deterrent and consumers are being defrauded continuously in new, creative ways every day. Until these CBD Snake oil sales people feel it in their bank accounts, they’re never going to stop!
Inpain
September 11, 2019
Why aren’t consumers given the names of companies who receive these warnings?
FTC Staff
September 16, 2019

In reply to by Inpain

The warning letters do not represent the FTC’s judgment about the quality of particular CBD brands. It's best to be highly skeptical about the extreme health claims that some CBD sellers are making about their products. If a company is marketing CBD for the treatment or prevention of serious diseases or disorders, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia, chances are there is little or no scientific support to back up those claims.

 

mark Williams
July 28, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

Why is there not a avenue to report these companies making medical claims for CBD?
UTA-Advertiser
October 07, 2019
How is a company that wishes to sell CBD-based medicine supposed to be able to make any claims when the Federal Government has disallowed testing and verification? If the only standard allowable is the federal standard, and the federal government refuses to allow testing and verification due to marijuana's Schedule I rating, doesn't that necessitate that there is no way to advertise the medicinal effects of CBD? IF not, can you please outline what "solid proof" is allowable (international studies, private studies, etc.) that specifically meet the FTC and FDA standards to support medicinal claims?
FTC Staff
October 07, 2019

In reply to by UTA-Advertiser

The FTC does not enforce the laws governing the permissibility of selling CBD products in interstate commerce. We regulate advertising claims about CBD products already on the market. Claims about the health benefits of a CBD product, as with any other product, must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The quantity and quality of that evidence varies by claim. In general, claims that a CBD product treats or prevents serious diseases or disorders or provides other drug-like health benefits (e.g., improves memory, prevents age-related cognitive decline) require human clinical trials. If the advertiser is unable to amass such evidence due to regulatory or financial hurdles, then it should not make these types of claims.

Tonya
October 31, 2019
How do you report a store that promised me a cure to my anxiety and fibromyalgia
FTC Staff
November 06, 2019

In reply to by Tonya

To tell the FTC about a problem, go to www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

lfair
November 06, 2019

In reply to by Jewel Madry

Thank you, Jewel.  You're right.  We fixed our typo. 

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