Interest in the therapeutic use of cannabidiol (CBD) has reached a fever-pitch in recent months, as CBD-containing products appear everywhere from online retailers to grocery stores and gas stations. The widespread availability of hemp-derived CBD products is confounding given that CBD is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug, and thus precluded from being added to food and beverages, or included in dietary supplements. The use by manufacturers of disease-related claims on marketing materials and product labels, along with the federal legalization of hemp in December 2018, has created political pressure on FDA to promulgate regulations.
Accurate and informative labeling of hemp and hemp-derived CBD products is an important public health issue. FDA-regulated product labels are considered an essential tool for protecting consumers and enabling informed decision-making. Untruthful or unsubstantiated health-related claims, and unallowed Drug Claims, in marketing materials and on labels of CBD products may create harm by enticing consumers to forgo more evidence-based medical interventions. Furthermore, missing or inaccurate labeling of the amount of CBD, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and potentially harmful contaminants such as pesticides, naturally-occurring yeast and mold or heavy metals may result in harm and/or lack of efficacy. Manufacturers of these products may reasonably be expected to understand and adhere to FDA regulations for labeling and marketing of food, dietary supplements and drugs, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription, even though FDA has interpreted federal law as excluding them from these categories. As manufacturers prepare for forthcoming regulations, a better understanding of the basic framework for FDA labeling and marketing regulations for food, dietary supplements and drugs is warranted.