Companies that have made claims about CBD’s beneficial effects against COVID-19 are facing swift enforcement action from US regulatory authorities.
More than 30 companies have received warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with five specialising in CBD being among the offenders.
NeuroXPF, the CBD company founded by ex-NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley, received a warning from the FDA after it posted an online banner proclaiming “Crush Corona”, with a statement below that “Your best defense against the COVID-19 blitz starts with a strong immune system”. Meanwhile, Turley in a now-deleted tweet claimed that CBD could cure coronavirus.
After receiving a warning letter from the FDA, Turley tweeted that he was leaving NeuroXPF and would make further statements as “a private citizen”. He has since continued making claims about CBD being used to fight coronavirus – although he has shifted his message to statements that CBD boosts the endogenous cannabinoid or endocannabinoid system and can help stimulate the immune system.
A London-based company, Nova Botanix (trading as CanaBD), was recently told to stop saying CBD could boost immune systems while making allusions to coronavirus through statements such as: “With the global virus, wreaking havoc across the globe, finding relief from an incurable virus is just within reach in the form of CBD oil.”
Of those companies on the receiving end of FDA warnings, CBD Online Store appears to have made the most indirect claims. The FDA letter highlighted statements such as: “Can CBD help with Corona Virus? Possibly! But one thing is for sure, it will help you relax when everyone else is panicking.” It also objected to claims that the disease caused inflammation in the lungs and that CBD has been found to have significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Native Roots Hemp and Indigo Naturals were also told to stop making COVID-related claims. Indigo Naturals was criticised for claiming CBD had anti-viral as well as anti-bacterial properties and that it thus might be an anti-viral agent for afflictions such as coronavirus.
Native Roots Hemp was criticised for making claims that cannabis could speed recovery from coronavirus and that cannabinoid products such as hemp oils could boost the immune system.
The FDA told all the companies making coronavirus-related claims: “You should take immediate action to correct the violations cited in this letter. You [should not be] misleadingly representing your products as safe and effective for a COVID-19-related use for which they have not been approved by FDA and [you should ensure you] do not make claims that misbrand the products in violation of the FD&C [Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.”
It asked the companies to respond within 48 hours with detailed steps on how they plan to rectify the situation. The agency said it would update published information accordingly to indicate companies had complied when they had done so. So far all CBD companies past the 48-hour mark – apart from Indigo Naturals – appear to have taken corrective actions.
It is unclear what actions will be taken against any company failing to take rectifying steps. The FDA said: “failure to immediately correct the violations cited in this letter may result in legal action, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction”.
Action at state level
State level officials have also been taking action. A cease-and-desist letter was sent by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to YiLoLife LLC, a company that sells marijuana and CBD products, for advertising a product it called the “Coronav Immunization Stabilizer Tincture”. The listing has since been taken down and it is unclear if that product contained CBD.
In New York State, the Attorney General’s Office warned Finest Herbalist, a CBD merchant, for allegedly spamming consumers with emails and texts advertising a product it referred to as “Immunity Oil”.
Unrelated to coronavirus, the US-based, industry-funded National Advertising Division (NAD), which describes itself as a watchdog for the advertising industry, said it had referred Grade A Nutraceuticals to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for claims that its CBD oil CannaPure had “therapeutic effects”, including that it helped fight all forms of chronic pain, regulated cholesterol, fought cancer cells and helped with diabetes, nausea, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, strokes, alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, vascular disease and other ailments.
The NAD is associated with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which also operates the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC). In February, the DSSRC referred CBD company Dose of Nature to the FTC, saying it claimed “CBD oil helps with Seizures, Multiple Sclerosis, Hormone Imbalance, Cigarette Addiction, Acne, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, PTSD, Schizophrenia, Crohns, Insomnia, Tourettes, Anxiety, Arthritis, Etc, etc, etc [and] works for pets”.
What This Means: Cannabidiol products may help with many ailments. But so far the rigorous scientific studies of CBD’s medical properties are limited largely to its effectiveness in epilepsy-related areas. Any company thinking of making claims about its CBD products should consider the risk of enforcement or warnings, given the heavy scrutiny currently being applied to the CBD market.
– Sam Newhouse CBD-Intel contributing writer