In January 2015, WholeFoods took a deep dive into the legal cannabis market, hemp-based products and cannabidiol (CBD), alerting readers that something big was brewing. Jane Wilson, director of program development for the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and author of the article, predicted: “The next few years are anticipated to include continued high levels of legislative activity regarding the Cannabis spp. plant.” Retailers, she said, “can best position themselves to take advantage of the changing legal landscape for Cannabis spp. plant products, and the potential resulting business opportunities, by paying close attention to emerging state and federal legislation and the myriad regulations that impact access to this botanical and its many useful derivatives.”

Wilson was spot-on about the myriad regulations and the opportunities—as well as about the need to pay close attention. The category is huge, evolving and there are pitfalls aplenty. Here, we break it down into 25 things to know right now—plus, go here for 7 questions retailers need to ask before selling any CBD product.

1) The ECS is key to health. “The endocannabinoid system is the body’s largest, and quite possibly, most important neurotransmitter system,” says Jade Beutler, CEO, Emerald Health Bioceuticals, based in San Diego. “It’s activated by both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids, which lock into CB1 and CB2 receptor sites located throughout the body. Once locked in, a cascade of communication takes place and the ECS begins its impressive task of creating balance in every cell, tissue and organ. Despite what’s going on in your body or in your environment, the ECS strives to maintain constant homeostasis by enzymatically breaking down cannabinoids based on your body’s current needs.”

Carl Germano, CNS, CDN, VP of Verdant Oasis and author of The Road to Ananda: The Illustrated Guide to The Endocannabinoid System, Phytocannabinoids, Hemp & Your Health adds, “The endocannabinoid system is enormous in what it does and what it regulates and what it modulates throughout the human body. From a global perspective, it is controlling and maintaining health, wellbeing and homeostasis. At the organ level, it governs neurotransmission, inflammatory cycling, pain signaling, insulin sensitivity, bone building and the list goes on and on and on.”

Indeed, adds Rob Maru, founder and co-CEO of Planted Earth in Livingston, NJ, “The endocannabinoid system remarkably regulates just about every function in the body including metabolism, hormone regulation, digestion, reproduction, mood, sleep, memory, immune function, appetite, movement and neuroprotection. The most exciting areas relate to its ability to naturally assist with pain and inflammation.”

2) There’s more to learn. “Researchers did not fully delve into this important system until the last couple of decades, so we’re behind the 8 ball as far as I’m concerned with having done research on one of the most important regulatory systems in the body thus far discovered,” says Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education at EuroPharma, Inc., maker of the Terry Naturally and EuroMedica brands, based in Green Bay, WI.

Germano echoes that sentiment. “We are technically in our infancy of research, even though Israel and Europe have been doing this for quite some time, and even though the endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s. Issues surrounding the way cannabinoids were categorized kept a lot of research at bay. Do we have the complete picture? Not entirely, but we have a sufficient amount of data out there to show these retailationships. When the endocannabinoid system suffers, so do you in so many different ways, and each person is different.”

On the upside, the research community received an infusion of cash in May, when an alumnus of Harvard and MIT gave $4.5 million to each institution to support cannabis research.

3) Endocannabinoid deficiency is a growing concern. “The ECS has a series of receptors throughout the body that modulate responses to a variety of stimuli,” Myers says. “In the presence of certain cues, the body responds by sending endocannabinoids to click into these receptors; I think of them as light dimmers that can turn up and turn down. It’s not that there’s a static amount of endocannabinoids and receptors. It’s constantly in flux depending on the needs of the body.” But, she notes, many people are not making optimal amounts of endocannabinoids.

Experts are exploring this in terms of deficiency. Explains Gene Bruno, professor of nutraceutical science for Huntington University of Health Sciences and senior director of product innovation for Twinlab Consolidation Corp., Boca Raton, FL, “There are several subjective pain syndromes that have proven to be resistant to effective and meaningful treatment. Chief among these are migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Given the similarity in pain and sensitivity symptoms and possible similarities in underlying pathophysiology, researchers have suggested that endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome might be the common factor in their origin.”

What causes inadequate levels of endocannabinoids? “There is no one single answer,” says Bruno. “Recent research suggests that, in some cases, the cause may have to do with genetic variants in the core endocannabinoid system genes. Other research suggest that maternal obesity may result in a fetal syndrome of endocannabinoid deficiency. Also, chronic exposure to glucocorticoids down regulates the endocannabinoid system, as can excessive amounts of arachidonic acid and chronic alcohol intake. A diet low in phytocannabinoids—low in plant foods—may also play a role. The fact is, inadequate levels of endocannabinoids may be associated with their production, metabolism, or the state of cannabinoid receptors.”

Lifestyle Strategies for an Optimized ECS

The buzz over CBD is driving new customers into natural products stores, and that is creating a beautiful opportunity to deliver on the goal of helping people achieve healthier lifestyles overall. “Phytocannabinoids may be part of a health and fitness plan that includes a clean, nutritious diet, exercise, good sleep habits, and things that lift your mindset and spirit like spending time out in nature, and spending time with your loved ones,” says Laura Fuentes, CEO and co-founder at Green Roads.

Speaking of diet, Bruno adds, “Human beings have evolved on a diet that includes various phytocannabinoids-containing foods. For example, grapes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, parsley, sunflower seeds and peas all contain phytocannabinoids—so does cacoa, from which chocolate is derived, and tea. Likewise, culinary herbs like basil, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, oregano and rosemary all contain phytocannabinoids, as do medicinal herbs like Echinacea, turmeric, and licorice. Consumption of these foods and herbs can all help to support healthy function of the ECS.”

Beutler outlines ECS-nourishing strategies that retailers can pass along to customers:

Move more. “Exercise can be anything from yoga to walking and swimming. And here's something fascinating about that famed and fabled ‘runner's high’: There are studies out disproving the source of an endorphin rush. Instead there is evidence suggesting that the high is a result of a bump up in endocannabinoids in your system.”

Get a massage. “Massage has been found to rev up the endocannabinoids in your body. If you can’t afford to hit the spa every week, a foam roller, massage ball or a gentle neck and shoulder massage can do the trick."

Go easy on alcohol. “No, you don't have to give up the enjoyment of a glass of wine at dinner,” he says. “If you're celebrating and that action is rare, no sweat. But excess alcohol can inhibit and even deaden the signaling you need from your ECS receptors.”

Eat greens. “Not only do leafy greens contain beta-caryophyllene, studies have also found that they activate the CB2 endocannabinoid receptor which may be key for defeating autoimmune disorders and conditions that flare up because of excess inflammation."

4) Our hectic lives up the risk. “In today’s modern world, we’re managing more daily stressors, acquiring more unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices and are more sedentary than previous generations—and it’s all significantly affecting the functioning of the endocannabinoid system and our overall well-being,” says Beutler. “How can you tell? Well, if you’re experiencing pain and inflammation, not sleeping well or having difficulty with mood, anxiety and stress, or trouble concentrating, your ECS may be out of balance, and it can cause serious health problems. Most of us experience these symptoms on a regular basis, but the reality is, this it isn’t normal! And if left unchecked, these imbalances could develop into Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CEDS), a condition where an individual produces a lower amount of cannabinoids essential for balanced health.” In addition to migraines, fibromyalgia and IBS, Beutler says CEDS has been implicated in mood imbalances, inflammation flare-ups and more—the list grows as research continues.

5) Plant-based cannabinoids can help. “We can prevent [certain health] issues,” Beutler says, “by supporting and nurturing our ECS with the production of endocannabinoids—cannabinoids produced naturally inside the body—and phytocannabinoids—plant compounds that mimic endocannabinoids.”

“The way plants work to augment our health as far as the endocannabinoid system,” Myers adds, “is that they contain compounds capable of attaching to cannabis receptors throughout the body to bring about certain health benefits. And in addition to augmenting your own supply of endocannabinoids with phytocannabinoids, there are also compounds in hemp oil that interfere with the enzymes that destroy our body’s own endocannabinoids.”

Bruno breaks down the science: “The two prominent endocannabinoids that the body produces are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. These endocannabinoids bind with receptors within the endocannabinoid system. Despite the fact that these endocannabinoids have valuable effects, there is an enzyme in the body called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) that breaks down these endocannabinoids.” Enter phytocannabinoids. “When significant amounts of phytocannabinoids are consumed,” Bruno says, “the FAAH will be used to break them down, instead of breaking down the endocannabinoids. This helps maintain healthy levels of endocannabinoids and prolong their action.”

6) CBD and THC act differently. “THC is an activator of the ECS, causing a spike in the manufacturing of anti-stress compounds that, in small amounts, help you deal with a stressful situation or set of circumstances,” explains Rebecca Hall, project coordinator at Pervida, based in Blacksburg, VA. “As with many drugs, this effect is easy to abuse—to ‘get high.’" Then there’s CBD. “CBD is a regulator of the ECS, helping the body to re-evaluate and re-define what it sees as a baseline amount of stress and encouraging the body to balance the levels of these compounds within its own capacity,” Hall says. “The human body responds to stress in so many different ways—this is why you hear stories of people’s blood pressure returning to normal or experiencing the relief of chronic pain in seemingly unrelated parts of the body after taking CBD. Additionally, studies have shown that CBD works best in the presence of other phytocannabinoids due to a phenomenon called the ‘entourage effect,’ meaning that someone who is trying CBD will get a more strongly perceived effect from a full-spectrum oil instead of CBD isolate.” Pervida CBD, she says, has a line of full-spectrum hemp oil-containing products called Pervida Calm. “The hemp oil we use for our products is GRAS and third-party analyzed. We use pomegranate seed oil to address inflammation and the damages caused by stress, and we used full-spectrum CBD as a way to help encourage the mind and body to heal, and manage stress in a less damaging way.”

7) Full Spectrum, explained. “CBD is one of many phytocannabinoids found in hemp,” says Bruno. “Although it is the most prevalent phytocannabinoids, consumption of the other ones alongside CBD results in ‘the entourage effect’—greater overall synergistic activity with greater results. Specifically, full-spectrum phytocannabinoids will result in the activation of the two major ECS receptors, not just one of them, as is the case with just CBD isolate. There is no entourage effect if you’re just using isolated CBD. Full-spectrum hemp extract, conversely, provides a full spectrum of naturally occurring phytocannabinoids, including a defined amount of CBD.” Although CBD isolate is less expensive, he says, it is also less effective.

“I am a huge proponent of full spectrum hemp oil because there’s more than 120 different cannabinoids in hemp and they all work differently,” says Myers. She notes that when we look the broad spectrum of cannabinoids in hemp, “they aren’t just acting independently. There are times when they join hands and all act as a group. There are times when the naturally occurring amounts of CBD in full spectrum hemp oil will behave differently because it is being influenced by its family members, rather than CBD that has been taken out in isolation.”

8) But...the term “full spectrum” may be subjective. “There’s not really a definition of full spectrum, the way there is with isolate,” contends Jake Black, chief scientific officer of Treehouse Hemp, in Longmont, CO. “Isolate means one individual molecule by itself. Full spectrum means a lot of different things to a lot of different people...Some people will take CBD and add some terpenes to it and say that’s full spectrum. Other people say it has to be a raw extract of the plant and if you distill it at all, or process it any further, it’s no longer full spectrum. Other people say as long as there’s two or three other cannabinoids in there, it’s full spectrum. So there is no accepted definition scientifically or in the industry. And that’s a problem. No one is talking on the same level when they talk to each other about this. Our internal definition [at Treehouse Hemp] is that it has to have multiple cannabinoids and terpenes and some of the fatty acids of the plant to make it a full spectrum. Though some people would argue that it’s not because we take the THC out of our process and some people say it needs THC, so that’s yet another definition.”

One thing full spectrum is not, according to Germano: “It is not taking an isolate and dumping it into a cheap inexpensive hemp oil or hemp seed oil that has no cannabinoids in it, and companies are doing that. It’s the wild wild west right now.” Verdant Oasis, distributed by Barrington Nutritionals, based in Harrison, NY, supplies phytocannabinoid-rich hemp stock oil to a number of manufacturers in the industry and has played a major part in shifting the narrative away from CBD and toward full spectrum.

9) “Broad spectrum” explained. The stance at Green Roads, based in Deerfield Beach, FL, is that full spectrum of a hemp plant technically includes THC. “We reduce THC down to non-detectable level,” Laura Fuentes, CEO and co-founder. “We’re committed to transparency, so we use the term ‘broad spectrum’ to acknowledge the absence of detectable THC. However, the CBD experience remains the same. We include the range of compounds that research shows may synergize with CBD and let your body relate to it in a more natural way, hence the use of the term ‘broad.’” Fuentes adds that Green Roads derives CBD from industrial hemp and formulates products designed to let consumers choose their own application method, including oils, gummies, topicals, coffee, tea, and more.

10) Caution is urged with isolates. “FDA has clarified that highly purified and isolated CBD are prescription drugs and not allow to be added to dietary supplements,” says Dr. Duffy MacKay, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at San Diego-based CV Sciences, makers of PlusCBD Oil. “Marketers of these ingredients are ignoring FDA and taking a significant risk. The intent of the 2018 Farm Bill was to allow farmers to grow agricultural hemp—for example, a tall plant grown on a farm, harvested with a combine, low in resin and cannabinoids, and high in fiber. Products derived from hemp have a moderate amount of CBD, approximately 5 to 15 mg per serving and contain other beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and bioactive constituents. In fact, Health Canada, which has been actively regulating hemp and marijuana products, has made a distinction. Hemp extracts that provide a full array of hemp plant constituents are appropriate as supplements—called Natural Health Products in Canada—while products that provide isolated or highly purified compounds are drugs.”

It is prudent, MacKay continues, to work with authentic hemp extracts that are allowed as supplements. “If consumers are looking for drug-like products with drug-like levels of CBD, they should appropriately be referred to a doctor or dispensary. If the emerging hemp industry does not act responsibly while FDA is evaluating how to regulate cannabis products, the industry risks inviting over-burdensome regulations.”

Bruno also stresses, “As the FDA considers a possible path the lawful presence of CBD in dietary supplements, there is considerable risk that CBD isolate will not be part of that path, but that naturally occurring CBD in hemp extracts will be. Of course, we don’t know for sure yet, but consider that the FDA’s current stated reason for not recognizing CBD as lawful for sale as a dietary supplement is that is currently a drug—specifically Epidiolex, which consists of CBD isolate. That being the case, I believe it is safer—and more efficacious—to go with full-spectrum rather than isolate.” He adds that Twinlab’s four full-spectrum phytocannabinoid products provide naturally occurring CBD and a range of other phytocannabinoids. “In addition, these products provide a clove/black pepper extract which contains significant amounts of beta-caryophyllene, a terpene/phytocannabinoid with a great deal of research. The combination of phytocannabinoids helps to assure that more complete ‘nourishment’ of the ECS.”

11) But...some do make a case for isolates. At Louisville, CO-based Bluebird Botanicals, Brandon Beatty, CEO & founder explains why isolates are in the line. “Our most popular products are our full-spectrum hemp extracts, otherwise known as CBD oil,” he says. “These extracts contain the entire array of the 80+ cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, as well as the additional nutritious compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, etc. We offer these extracts in both oil and capsule forms. We also offer a variety of hemp isolate products, including our CBD isolate, vape oil, and THC-Free CBD oil. These are great choices for those looking to enjoy the benefits of pure CBD.”

Expanding on that, Grace Kaucic, digital marketing specialist at Bluebird Botanicals, says, “Full-spectrum extracts do contain a small amount of THC—less than 0.3% by dry weight per federal regulations. This small amount prevents most people from experiencing its psychoactive effects; however, some consumers may have extra sensitivities to THC. Likewise, civil servants and athletes who undergo rigorous drug screenings may need a product completely purified from THC. For these individuals, we created our THC-Free CBD Oil, which contains CBD isolate emulsified in fractionated coconut MCT oil.”

Warfighter Hemp, in Boulder, CO, offers over 30 products ranging from tinctures to CBD bath bombs. And offerings include both full spectrum and CBD-only products that are derived from an isolate, says company founder Steve Danyluk, Lt. Col (retired), Marines. “A substantial number of people do not want any THC in their product, which is the reason why the isolates remain popular. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many benefits found in the full spectrum products where trace amounts of the 100+ cannabinoids found in the plant can interact and form what is commonly referred to as an ‘entourage effect.’”

12) Synthetics are sneaking in. “Now we have synthetic CBD out there that can be made more cheaply than extracting it,” laments Myers. “Now we have to deal with yet another compound that does not exert the kind of health activity that you get from the full balance of phytonutrients.”

Maru seconds the concern. “The marketplace is being flooded by synthetic isolate CBD which should be avoided at all cost. Research suggests that full spectrum CBD with its vast array of cannabinoids, terpenes and other phytonutrients is superior and more efficacious. We believe whole plant full spectrum hemp that is processed using a clean method such as water extraction is the very best way to get your CBD.” Planted Earth, he adds, offers a quick-dissolve powder with MCT that provides 10mg CBD per serving, along with a CBD liquid 25mg, and 15mg and max potency 25mg capsules, “all of which are powdered by our proprietary EZsol technology which micronizes and emulsifies our CBD for enhanced solubility and absorption.”

13) Consumers may confuse hemp stock and hemp seed. “There are no cannabinoids in hemp seed oil,” says Myers, adding that Europharma’s Hemp Select hemp oil line uses hemp seed oil as a carrier because it has omega-3s in it. “We like to provide a product exclusively from the plant. But for the companies selling hemp seed oil on its own, it has healthy plant-based omega-3s, but does not have any cannabinoids whatsoever. A lot of times consumers are confused because hemp seed oil is very inexpensive, whereas full spectrum hemp stock oil is not inexpensive.”

Hemp History Week!

Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and the hemp industry community celebrate the 10th annual Hemp History Week, June 3-9. During the campaign, natural product retailers, hemp advocates and HIA chapters across the country were set to host over 1,500 unique grassroots and retailer events, featuring educational components, hemp product sampling, speakers, documentary screenings and a letter-writing campaign, as well as community outreach at farmers’ markets, state lobbying days and spring plantings. “This is our opportunity to further illustrate that hemp is not just a counterculture novelty but a mainstream commodity,” said Colleen Keahey Lanier, executive director of HIA. “This Hemp History Week, we come together in support of hemp farmers, in support of healthy, American-made products, and in support of a more sustainable future.” Sponsors include Bluebird Botanicals, Dr. Bronner’s, Manitoba Harvest, Nutiva, PlusCBD Oil and Prana Principle.

14) Cannabis-free phytocannabinoids also deliver benefits: “Until recently, it was believed that only hemp and cannabis could activate the ECS, however scientists have discovered other plants containing phytocannabinoids with the same ability to support this critical system,” Beutler says. With this understanding, he adds, the Scientific Advisory Board at Emerald Health Bioceuticals “identified six powerful cannabis-free phytocannabinoids from a 4,000 plant meta-analysis to create our proprietary PhytoCann Complex. This science-backed, doctor-formulated blend of herbs and botanicals including echinacea, peony, magnolia, clove oil, Szechuan and ginger is the power behind all of our supplements providing a more targeted and comprehensive approach to endocannabinoid health than CBD alone.”

Beutler adds that Emerald’s ENDO line of cannabis-free phytocannabinoids was designed to fully support the ECS. “You can think of our five condition-specific products as a multi-vitamin for your ECS and overall health,” he says. “Endo Calm supports greater relaxation and mental energy, improved adrenal and cortisol levels and positive changes on brain waves with Echinacea, Ashwagandha and PharmaGABA. Endo Sleep supports healthy sleep-wake cycles, so you can fall asleep fast, sleep through the night and wake up revitalized with Magnolia Bark, Passion Flower Extract and PharmaGABA. Endo Inflame helps to balance the neurotransmitters that influence pain and inflammation, while also promoting your body’s healthy response to stiffness and achiness with Curcumin and Boswellia. And Endo Bliss supports a positive outlook and resistance to daily pressures and Endo Brain supports mental acuity and cognition, brain cell transmission and protection of the brain from oxidative damage with Echinacea and Saffron Extract.”

15) As hot as CBD is, there those who want to avoid it. For those people, Beutler says, the Beyond CBD line offers a comprehensive, condition-specific approach to endocannabinoid health “without the stigma, legality or drug testing concerns that some associate with hemp and cannabis.” Retailers, he says, should consider if CBD is right for their customers. “Many people are either unable or unwilling to take CBD due to employment drug testing, the stigma and legality associated with CBD or they’re not getting their desired results from the popular supplement.”

Myers notes that there are also options like the company’s AnxioCalm, which contains specific alkamides from echinacea that work via cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

16) Omega-3s and cannabinoids are a “match made in heaven.” “Research is now showing that endocannabinoids produced inside the body are by far the most powerful ECS activators—and they can only be made from dietary omega fatty acids,” says Beutler. “Specifically, the ECS needs omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in very specific ratios to function properly. It also needs them in constant supply, because, unlike neurotransmitters, hormones and other chemical messengers the body uses to communicate, endocannabinoids cannot be stored, so they must be made ‘on demand’ at the site where the body needs them.”

Germano explains that omega-3 is used as backbone structures to produce cannabinoids in the body, and the phospholipids in omega-3 oils can improve the absorption of the cannabinoids. Given this, he says, “I encourage retailers to piggyback omega-3 with any hemp oil product.’ Cannabinoids are all fat soluble, he continues, and can be improved with standard technologies that have been used to improve lipid absorption, such as liposomes and phospholipids. “I love the combination of hemp oil rich in phytocannabinoids along with omega-3. It’s a match made in heaven. They complement each other well both for bioavailability and utilization in the body.”

17) Combos can make a good thing even better. Myers’ suggestion for consumers: “Use hemp as part of a protocol instead of expecting it to do all of the heavy lifting by itself.” There are many combinations, such as curcumin along with product like Europharma Hemp Select, she says, that deliver “amazing” results.

Germano also discusses the benefits of synergies. “There are no magic bullets in medicine or in nutrition,” he stresses. “While cannabinoids that support the ECS are critically important for the human body in keeping it healthy or addressing certain conditions, I am not a single magic bullet person...I look at accessory nutrients to complement the phytocannabinoids that are working on the ECS to give superior functionality to the formula.”

For formulators, Rikka Cornelia, product specialist with BI Nutraceuticals, which recently added CBD to their ingredient profile, says, “A manufacturer can incorporate additional ingredients in a product with the same benefit to not only add value, but to also differentiate the product from others on the shelf. For instance, CBD is said to help with inflammation. Turmeric is a well-known and clean label anti-inflammatory, which would be ideal to add to a CBD formula, which would also address clean label considerations.” Above all, she says, “With CBD having various benefits, it’s important for manufacturers and retailers to determine the reason their target audience is purchasing or planning to purchase CBD-based products, and then formulate and stock their products based on that.”

18) There’s a formulation for everyone. “Using hemp CBD for health is a personal experience. What might work for one person for a particular issue, may not work for another in the same way. That’s why we have a variety of products so we can meet the unique needs of each person,” says MacKay, adding that CV Sciences offers a wide selection of hemp-based products: balm, sprays and drops, gummies, capsules, and softgels. MacKay outlines the following benefits of each:
  • Topical CBD is great for skin. For many who may be hesitant to try CBD, this is a good option because it is for external use only.
  • Drops and Sprays—also known as tinctures—are great starter products because they’re flavored, and some have lower concentrations of CBD per serving. They are the quickest delivery method, so for instant relief, these products would be ideal.
  • Gummies offer a familiar delivery system for people just starting their hemp CBD journey. Because each gummy has exact serving measurements, gummies make it easy to track intake.
  • Softgels and Capsules are better used for more targeted, enhanced support. These products have higher amounts of CBD per serving in most cases and the servings are more precise. For those who need a specific dose for their daily routine, these products offer a quick and accurate solution.
To that, Green Roads’ Fuentes adds, “The best form of CBD for you depends on your lifestyle. People who are in planes, trains and taxicabs day in and day out like the gummies. There’s no fiddling with droppers or spilling liquids. The dose size is easy to understand. People who like fast-acting support and a direct experience go for the oils. Either product can be incorporated into a daily routine, which is really the ideal way to take CBD. And of course, our coffee and tea are a great way to bring CBD into your morning or afternoon.”

Kaucic at Bluebird also points out that topical products like lotions, creams and balms are great for targeting specific areas of the body. “Likewise, many find applying CBD to their skin to be much less intimidating than ingesting it orally when trying it for the first time. Bluebird customers can look forward to our new topical line of lotions and lip balms coming this summer.”

19) Consumers may have a terpene preference, too. Fuentes notes, “Research is still being done about the impact and effect of different types of terpenes. We know they have a big impact on aroma, so in that respect the ‘best’ terpene is a matter of personal preference. After that, there are certain effects associated with each one. For example, limonene is found in citrus and helps your body absorb other terpenes. B Caryophyllene, the most prevalent terpene in cannabis, is known to interact directly with the endocannabinoid system. It is also found in black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Mycrene is found in hops, lemongrass, and mango. Many people know linalool, which is found in lavender, and famous for its soothing properties.” Her advice for consumers: “I recommend finding the one that works best for you.”

20) More innovation is on the way. Cornelia points to “Cowen’s Collective View of CBD,” a report that determined that the most widely used forms for CBD-based products are tinctures (44%), topicals (26%), capsules (22%), other products (21%), and beverages (19%). “I believe the top three forms earned their spot because they are the easiest delivery systems for CBD, and the lower usage of other products and beverages was not due to a lack of consumer demand, but rather a lack of availability,” Cornelia says. “CBD can be a difficult ingredient to work with due to its lipophilic nature, as well as its color and flavor. As manufacturers innovate to solve these challenges, more formats will be introduced into the marketplace; formats that consumers are asking for, like beverages. U.S. sales of beverages infused with hemp-derived CBD are predicted to reach $600 million in 2019 and approach $1 billion in 2020. A technology that has found its way into CBD manufacturing is nanotechnology, which helps with the color and solubility of CBD in beverage applications.”

The team at Planted Earth also sees the opportunity. “For over 20 years we’ve used the same consumer-centric approach to our formulation and innovation. What we’ve learned is that most who take CBD love the benefits but simply do not enjoy taking it on a daily basis,” Maru says, noting that taste can also be an issue. “Our proprietary CBD and Ezsol process removes the bitter compounds and acids resulting in a clear liquid with a pleasant taste profile.” And the company’s powder, he says, “dissolves quickly and easily in any liquid including water and even coffee. It can also be added to food or used in baked goods.”

21) There’s no set “dose.” “Many of our customers ask about serving sizes,” Kaucic notes. “How much they should be taking each day? Because everyone reacts differently to CBD, Bluebird encourages experimenting with your daily amount. To make this process even simpler, we created our soft gel capsules in both 5 and 15 mg servings. Bluebird’s CBD capsules are perfect for those looking for a consistent serving that they can easily take on the go.”

One piece of advice to give people just starting out, MacKay says, is to go low and slow. “Start with lower serving sizes, then increase over time to find your sweet spot.”

22) Know what you can (and can’t) say: As WholeFoods previously reported, this was covered at Expo West in the Barlean’s sponsored talk Selling CBD: Legal and Practical Advice for Retailers. Jeffrey Burke, N.D., noted, “It’s a fine tightrope that we walk these days, especially as we see people who want to make dramatic changes to their lives.” It was noted that in some cases there’s not a need to say much at all. Word-of-mouth is so high surrounding CBD that customers are coming into natural products stores already sold thanks to benefits they heard about from their friends and family. To those who do ask questions, Dr. Burke said it’s safe to talk about how people tend to “feel better all the way around.” It can be said that when the ECS is balanced, it helps bring the body “back to the blueprint it had when it was healthy.”

“There’s a difference in talking about a product and an ingredient,” Myers adds. “The government names that differentiation between what they call 3rd party information and branded information. You can talk about 3rd party information and say there have been studies showing that cannabinoids help to alleviate anxiety or help with joint pain as long as you don’t say ‘this product.’ Also, retailers can keep 3rd party literature in the store—books and booklets or single sheet info pieces that are not branded to give customers a better outline of the health benefits that can be realized. I find it extremely useful for retailers to have this excellent non-branded info on hand to share, and then consumers can take it home and read and come back informed.”

Another suggestion from Bruno: “DSHEA allows for the use of structure/function claims, as well as a discussion of mechanisms of action. That means that retailers can freely discuss benefits—in structure/function language—as well as discuss the value that phytocannabinoids/CBD has for the ECS.” His examples:
  • Supports the ECS, which plays an important role in the regulation and maintenance of all body systems.
  • Clinically demonstrated to help reduce stress.
  • Helps support healthy sleep.
But don’t, Bruno stresses, make claims that phytocannabinoids/CBD will help in the in the treatment, prevention or mitigation of any disease or medical condition.

Don’t even hint at such things, says MacKay. “Retailers should take care to not inadvertently imply that hemp dietary supplements are replacements for drugs. Retailers should not accept products with marketing that makes or implies that the products are for epilepsy or any other condition. Also, CBD products should not be merchandised with OTC products or in other ways that could suggest they are intended to be used as drugs. A responsible approach to merchandising hemp products significantly lowers retailers’ risk and liability.”

Really—stay far, far away from claims. Steven Shapiro, of counsel, Rivkin Radler LLP, New York, NY, cautions. “Reputable retailers should not carry products that make impermissible drug claims and should direct customers to speak with their doctors or other health care practitioners if they are asked about using CBD for disease treatment.”

For more on this topic, MacKay suggests reviewing “Roadmap For Retailers: What You Can and Cannot Say About Supplements” from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

23) Emphasizing education will make the difference. As competition increases, says Fuentes, quality control and transparency with consumers become ever more important. “The more you distribute helpful, informative educational materials and top-quality products, the better off you will be, and the more often customers will come back to you. We make it a big priority to distribute pamphlets, brochures, samples, and other informational materials to our retailers and end users.”

Education is a valuable resource to offer to consumers, Kaucic agrees. “Despite its growing popularity, many consumers still have a lot of questions about CBD, particularly around where it comes from, how to use it properly, and what effects it may have on them. As competition from the mass market increases, prioritizing consumer education and understanding about CBD is the best way to become a trusted, go-to source.”

24) Get support from trusted sources. “High consumer demand for hemp-derived products makes it relatively easy to connect consumers to the products they are looking for,” says MacKay. “Providing product visibility and access to information about hemp-products in the store will help retailers be the go-to source for consumers. For example, CV Sciences provides extensive retailer trainings and literature to support our retail partners. PlusCBD Oil offers a variety of tools and programs to support retailer needs. Not only do we have a robust demo and co-op advertising programs, we support stores on the ground through in-field education and consumer events and sampling at store level.”

Kaucic points to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, calling it an “excellent resource for all hemp and CBD related industry news, especially on the legislative front.”

In terms of the ECS, Beutler adds, “We love everything about the endocannabinoid system and want retailers and consumers to love this critical system as much as we do. That’s why we provide our retailers with complimentary monthly trainings on the ECS, how it works, ways to care for it and more. We also have a podcast highlighting our products and endocannabinoid health, webinars, in-store trainings and an exclusive book on the endocannabinoid system by Dr. Michael Murray, one of the leading authorities on natural medicine and a member of our Scientific Advisory Board.”

25) Industry must act responsibly. “The landscape changes day by day,” says Fuentes. “You have to stay attentive, and double check your sources. That includes state legislation as laws change regularly.”

Myers adds, “Just look at the huge popularity. I don’t think it would be this popular if people weren’t getting some pretty good results. Science on it is expanding, we’re learning better and better ways to make sure people get the health benefits that they expect, for example moving on to full spectrum and paying attention to the quality. I don’t want to see it reduced in any way that makes access to it more limited because of all the argument going on regarding its association with marijuana. So keeping to the letter of the law, making sure it’s less than .3% THC, making sure you are not calling out CBD or CBD content. These are important factors in making sure we keep this very valuable natural medicine available to our consumers.”

Regarding the letter of the law, Shapiro says, “FDA has stated as a matter of law that CBD is ‘excluded’ from the definition of a dietary supplement and food ingredient because it was authorized for investigation as a new drug for which substantial clinical investigations had been instituted and made public prior to its marketing as either a dietary or food ingredient.”

At the Dietary Supplements Regulatory Summit in May, FDA’s Steven Tave said, “FDA does not have an enforcement discretion policy with regard to CBD.” He noted that, in supplements or food, CBD is still illegal. He added that FDA doesn’t have the resources to address every unlawful ingredient or action, “so we are prioritizing, but that doesn’t make it ok.”

Shapiro says the critical things for industry to consider are that all the rules applicable to foods and dietary supplements generally still apply—products must be manufactured according to the dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices regulation or the Hazard Analysis and Risked-Based preventive Controls for Human Food regulation, and label information must be correctly stated. “There appears to be a rush to add CBD to all kinds of products and to make all kinds of claims, many of which are obviously well over the line such as those relating to everything from arthritis and chronic pain to cancer, glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis,” he says. “Putting the issue of CBD to the side, if products are otherwise non-compliant with the underlying requirements that apply to all food and dietary supplements, FDA has and will act. If industry wants CBD to become a long-term product category, it must act responsibly to develop and create safe effective and generally compliant products while avoiding the temptation to make outrageous non-compliant claims.”

In addition, Marc Ullman, of counsel, Rivkin Radler, says there are “significant issues regarding New Dietary Ingredient Status and lack of any regulatory filing supporting the safety of CBD’s use in supplements or food. ‘Full spectrum’ products that are basically hemp oil—technically hemp extract—have been on the market in the EU and elsewhere and do not present these issues. Retailers need to take this factor into consideration when stocking products.” WF

Looking for More on CBD? Try these!

Seven Questions Retailers Should Be Asking, by Maggie Jaqua

What the Science Says about CBD Liposome Absorption, My Interview with Dr. Emek Blair, by Steve Lankford of Health Quest Podcast

CBD: When it stands for Cannot Be Denied by Scott Steinford, managing partner at Trust Transparency Center

GRAS for Grass: Is Generally Recognized as Safe a Viable Pathway for CBD Market Access? by Amy Mozingo, MS, director of operations at GRAS Associates, a Nutrasource subsidiary, and Dr. Susan J. Hewlings, Ph.D., R.D., director of scientific affairs at Nutrasource, address frequently asked questions about CBD marketing, sales, and compliance.

HIA to Facebook: Stop Censoring Hemp

And keep an eye out for coverage of the 10th annual Hemp History Week, celebrated by the Hemp Industries Association and the hemp industry from June 3-9.