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GMA Calls for Federal Regulation of CBD

Category a classic 'case study in the federal government’s struggle to keep pace with consumer demand'
Photograph: Shutterstock

While the booming cannabidiol (CBD) market is ablaze with new products and an increasing base of users, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is calling for federal regulation and oversight of the multibillion-dollar industry, based on data from a new research study it conducted.

Officials from the Arlington, Va.-based trade association—which will become the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) in January 2020—said insights from its research study underscores abounding “consumer confusion about what CBD is, what it does and whether CBD products are safe. More concerning, with 1 in 3 Americans using CBD, the overwhelming majority (76%) assumes CBD products are subject to federal regulations and safety oversight when, in fact, no such regulations exist.”

To the contrary, GMA said the burgeoning CBD industry operates within a patchwork system of state regulations, devoid of federal agency oversight.

Describing the CBD marketplace as “currently the Wild West,” GMA President and CEO Geoff Freeman said “without uniform federal regulatory framework in place, consumers lack the basic information they need to make informed decisions about CBD.” To that end, GMA is marshaling resources to “lead an aggressive campaign to protect consumers by advancing regulatory clarity” with a broad-based coalition to ensure a safe and transparent consumer marketplace.

Among the highlights of GMA’s survey:

  • Six in 10 Americans are familiar with CBD, but confusion is rampant.
  • Four in 10 Americans (39%) incorrectly believe CBD is just another name for marijuana, and more than half mistakenly think it can get you “high.”
  • Despite clear confusion, two-thirds (66%) of Americans say they believe it is safe.

When learning CBD products are not federally regulated, 82% of Americans expressed alarm, 67% of whom say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned, alongside 84% who report being worried about the varying regulations that could result from the current state-by-state patchwork system.

The most common uses for CBD among GMA survey respondents include:

  • Pain management: 52%
  • Stress or anxiety reduction : 50%
  • Sleep issues: 43%.
  • Alleviating cancer symptoms/treating effects of a neurological disorder: 21%

To date, CBD has only been approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of epilepsy.

“CBD is a case study in the federal government’s struggle to keep pace with consumer demand,” said Betsy Booren, GMA’s SVP of regulatory and technical affairs. “Industry and consumers alike need government to determine safety and provide regulatory clarity. Until this occurs, the most trusted, experienced and highly regulated brands cannot enter the market.”

GMA said its advocacy campaign will urge the FDA to move quickly to establish uniform federal regulations overseeing CBD products over the coming months.

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