Mainstream retailers embrace marijuana’s less taboo cousin

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s showing up in everything from skin creams to bath balms to dog treats — an elixir that can supposedly reduce anxiety and help you sleep.

The ingredient? CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound derived from hemp and marijuana that doesn’t cause a high.

Mainstream retailers are taking advantage of a sudden boom in the industry even as CBD’s health benefits remain murky amid a patchwork of state and local laws. And the flood of products is only testing how federal regulators can police it.

Retail sales of CBD consumer products in 2018 were estimated to reach as much as $2 billion, according to Cowen & Co. By 2025, that figure could hit $16 billion in retail sales, the investment firm predicts.

Domestic diva Martha Stewart is working with Canada’s Canopy Growth Corp. to develop new CBD products. And the nation’s largest mall owner Simon Property Group has hooked up with a cannabis goods maker to open roughly 100 kiosks at its U.S. malls by mid-summer.

Authentic Fitness is planning to sell CBD foot creams, oils and soaps under the Nine West brand starting this fall. And CVS Health is beginning to sell CBD-infused creams, sprays, lotions and salves at more than 800 stores in seven states; drug store rivals Walgreens and Rite Aid are now following suit.

Even high-end retailers are getting in on the action, charging anywhere from $12 to $150 an ounce. Barneys New York has opened a shop in Beverly Hills, California, that sells CBD-infused creams along with hand blown glass bongs and other accessories, while Neiman Marcus is now offering an array of CBD-infused beauty products from balms, lotions soaps and masks in five of its stores.

“There’s definitely a huge opportunity for expansion,” said Matthew Mazzucca, creative director at Barneys New York.

He acknowledged, however, the legal hurdles are still hard to navigate and companies should take it slow.

Indeed, some are doing just that. Walmart says it doesn’t have plans to carry CBD-infused products at this time and Target, which in 2017 sold hemp extract products on its website but then quickly yanked them, said it’s monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, online behemoth Amazon is staying clear of the stuff. Spokeswoman Cecilia Fan says the company prohibits the sale of products that contain CBD and will remove them from its site if it sees them.

CBD’s ubiquity persists despite very little evidence for all the health claims the industry touts. If you believe in the hype, CBD treats pain, reduces anxiety and helps you sleep and keeps you focused. But most claims are based on studies in rats, mice or in test tubes. Human research has been done but on small numbers of people.

Only drugs that have been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective can make claims that they treat or prevent diseases or medical conditions. Many CBD producers try to get around that by using vague language about general health and well-being.

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