Updated: Dec 10, 2020
By: Julia Gilbert
Since March, several CBD companies have received warning letters from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding claims made about the medical benefits of CBD with respect to treating COVID-19. If you are a cannabis business owner, doing something like this is a sure way to get yourself unwanted federal attention so it’s important to look at examples of these claims to see what the FDA and FTC are cracking down on.
The FDA and FTC claim that these businesses are doing two things; selling unapproved new drugs, and selling misbranding drugs. While it is obvious in some of the instances why the government found the claims problematic, in others it’s less so. This means that anyone selling CBD needs to exercise caution regarding making claims about CBD’s ability to treat specific ailments.
In the more obviously problematic column, one company posted a blog focusing on a doctor who had previously discussed how CBD can fight viral infections like coronavirus. Another company came right out and stated in its advertising “[u]se CBD Oil to fight coronavirus, COVID-19!”
In the other column containing the less obviously problematic, the FDA and FTC even took issue with a general statement that included disclaimers, such as “we know that cannabis has some antiviral activity, whether or not that will make the slightest difference for the Coronavirus, I have no idea. I’m not telling you to do this because this will cure or prevent that.” Another company selling CBD immune-boost packs stated after the description of each product being sold that “[t]here is no cure or treatment for COVID19. Many doctors say the best thing you can do is boost your immune system. [The product being advertised] is an amazing product designed to help boost the immune system.”
When the companies receive these letters, they are given 48 hours to respond by email. They must respond with the steps they have taken to correct the violations including an explanation of each step being taken to prevent recurrence and copies of related documentation. If the violations are not corrected “immediately,” the FDA and FTC threaten that legal action could result such as seizure and injunction. Additionally, until corrective actions are taken, each of these businesses are put on a list published on the FDA’s website that have received warning letters concerning the sale or distribution of COVID-19 related products in violation of the law.
Cannabis is a highly regulated market, and not just by the states. As a Cannabis business owner, you don’t just have to consider your state and municipality but also federal government agencies such as the FDA, FTC, and IRS. This is one reason it’s so important to hire marijuna attorneys knowledgeable regarding cannabis law. At our firm, we can help you both draw up compliant business plans and help you stay compliant once you receive your license and begin operating.