The Federal Trade Commission is fed up with companies that peddle cannabidiol (CBD) products and make “unsupported claims” about their efficacy treating serious conditions like cancer. While the FDA is still in the process of crafting regulations for CBD products, they are increasingly popular and now line shelves from vitamin shops and pharmacies to gift shops and grocery stores. Such consumer demand amid a lack of regulation has created a ripe marketplace for bad actors.
On Thursday, the FTC announced Operation CBDeceit, its most sweeping action against CBD sellers to-date, with a focus on six companies who allegedly made “a wide range of scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.”
The FTC is “requiring” that each of the six companies that the Commission has identified “stop making such unsupported health claims immediately.” A handful of the companies will also have to pay “monetary judgments.”
Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, pointed out during a press call on Thursday that the FTC has taken regular action against people who make “spurious” claims about their dietary supplements, for example.
“CBD won’t be any exception,” Smith said, adding that the FTC held the news teleconference and made the announcement as a means of raising public awareness. “We felt as though there was a need to educate the CBD community in particular about the legal requirements when you’re advertising health benefits for products.”
So, will the FTC be ramping up enforcement of CBD companies that make unproven or unsubstantiated claims?
“What I would anticipate is that there will be a regular pace of cases against these sellers who are making calls or unsubstantiated health claims. But I wouldn’t anticipate that it would necessarily be any more than, you know, the regular,” Smith said. “I don’t necessarily anticipate that we would be targeting CBD in any way. And we just want to make sure that CBD sellers understand the rules and that they apply them in their advertising.”
The FTC described each CBD product, and specific reasons for the FTC enforcement, which can be read here.
This isn’t the first time that CBD has been the topic of FTC scrutiny. The Commission has previously issued a series of warning letters, and halted a marketing company because of COVID-19 related claims. The Food and Drug Administration and FTC have also issued joint warning letters.
And, when former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib resigned in the spring of 2019, he released a statement detailing the agency’s future plans for the marketing and regulation of products that contain CBD. Gottlieb pointed to warning letters issued by the FDA, in collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission, to three companies making “unsubstantiated claims.”