It's National CBD Day and that means brands are pulling out all the stops to promote various snacks, cosmetics, and lifestyle products, infused with what has become the hottest trend in wellness: CBD.
Although there's plenty of money to be made on a day dedicated to the hemp-derived compound, the day's founder, Charlotte, North Carolina-based cbdMD, insists the second annual day, which this year falls about eight months after Congress fully legalized the substance, is really all about spreading education and awareness about CBD.
"There is so much misinformation online so [we're] just doing our part to get everyone to kind of focus on it, take the day out, learn the realities," said Caryn Dunayer, president and co-founder of CBD brand cbdMD. "Unfortunately there are a ton of people looking at CBD as a quick cash grab … [so we're teaching people to] do your homework, do the research, learn as much as you can."
CBD or cannabidiol, a hemp compound touted for not getting its users high, as well as purported applications for everything from inflammation to trouble sleeping, has been available on the gray market in the U.S. for quite some time. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act, opening the floodgates for a commercial CBD market that, as it turns out, the public was anxious to receive.
The hemp-derived CBD market is expected to swell to $5 billion by the close of 2019 ー that's more than a 700 percent increase from $600 million of sales in 2018, prior to the Farm Bill's passage, according to market research firm Brightfield Group. And the craze likely won't slow down anytime soon. By 2023, the market is expected to hit close to $24 billion, the firm reported.
There's no simple explanation for what makes a trend go viral, but cbdMD's Dunayer said she thinks it has to do with a confluence of forces, including the popularity of social media, a focus on preventative healthcare, and the hype surrounding cannabis legalization.
"People are becoming a lot more health conscious. I think social media has done a remarkable job of bringing certain types of diets, overall quality lifestyles, and really just caring about one's body, where previously a couple decades ago … there was no social media," she said. "There are definitely more initiatives than I remember, growing up, to lead healthier lifestyles."
Part of what makes CBD so popular is undeniably its legality, especially relative to THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. But Dunayer thinks that even cannabis legalization on the federal level won't dull CBD's shine, because, as an intoxicant, it targets a different market than wellness-focused CBD.
"If you look at some of the cannabis-friendly states that have recreational [legalization] right now, there are still a lot of people that are choosing CBD over traditional marijuana, because they don't want the high," Dunayer said.
As for the purported wellness benefits, that's where the educational component of the day comes in. Too little research has been done to prove CBD actually does what many advocates say it does, which is a little bit of everything. The Food and Drug Administration, the body in charge of crafting regulations for a market that is currently running wild, has expressly forbidden companies from making health claims about the substance, although the practice continues. The FDA has written several letters warning companies, like cannabis company Curaleaf, about their unlawful claims.
Many major players in the industry, like Medterra and Bluebird Botanicals, have implored the FDA to move more quickly on regulations, and the agency seems to have listened. FDA Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy teased on Twitter that the industry could see an update on the regulatory process as early as fall.
"We plan to report on our progress around end of summer/early fall," Abernethy wrote in a tweet.
Marielle Weintraub, president of the U.S. Hemp Authority, said the coming federal intervention is something to celebrate on National CBD Day.
"We have seen a lot of change occurring on the federal level. We are used to a lot of change happening state by state by state by state. I personally felt a real change on May 31, when the FDA had the open forum," Weintraub said.
But until those regulations are enacted, it is important for consumers to educate themselves ー and the U.S. Hemp Authority is here to help.
A certification program for hemp companies and farmers, the U.S. Hemp Authority was born in the vacuum of federal regulation to help consumers choose products that are safe. The program requires applicants to undergo rigorous third party auditing and encourages them to post their lab testing results online.The authority had certified only 22 companies and farms at the time of publishing, including Bluebird and three of the top four leading CBD companies by market share: CV Sciences, Charlotte's Web, and Medterra.
In the absence of federal regulations, there is a risk that consumers will purchase adulterated CBD products, or products that contain little or none of the compound. Weintraub hopes certification programs like hers will keep consumers safe and informed.
"We started a certification program in order to have an easier way for customers and people to identify safe, quality, and legal hemp, and CBD products on the market," she said.
Risks aside, National CBD Day was intended to be fun ー in fact it's one of the criteria that National Calendar Day, the North Dakota-based "authority" on national days, uses to determine whether a theme qualifies. The group, which uses the catchphrase "Celebrate Every Day," sifts through about 20,000 applications per year. After cbdMD applied, it granted CBD Day its designation in 2018.
Alice Anderson, a partner at National Calendar Day, acknowledged many businesses use these rather arbitrarily assigned days as money-making opportunities, but said that doesn't discount their legitimacy.
"Are they holidays? Every holiday we have was made up," she said. "Thanksgiving was made up, Memorial Day, Labor Day ー they all were ー Valentine's Day. This is no different than that."