On September 10, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") announced that it sent three warning letters to companies unlawfully advertising Cannabidiol ("CBD") products for the treatment of serious diseases. Although the FTC did not identify which companies received these warning letters, the FTC said that these companies sell oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, and other creams that contain the ingredient CBD. We recently reported on the FDA's most recent warning letter to Curaleaf, Inc., in which the FDA warned of Curaleaf's unlawful marketing and communication of its Hemp CBD Lotion, Pain Relief Patch, Tincture, Vape Pen and other CBD pet products.
The FTC's Press Release warned that website claims made by these companies about their CBD-infused products could violate the FTC Act. For example, claims that these products treat and/or cure serious diseases and health conditions such as autism, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), fibromyalgia, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), addiction, chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, asthma, Parkinson's, Crohn's, and brain injuries, among others. In describing how CBD treats and/or cures these diseases and health conditions, one company stated that CBD "works like magic," is "better than prescription opioid pain killers," and that CBD has been "clinically proven" to treat these diseases and health conditions, while another described CBD as a "miracle pain remedy."
The FTC's warning letters urge these companies to review all claims made about their products, including, but not limited to, testimonials shared from customers. Such claims must be supported by "competent and reliable scientific evidence." Selling CBD products without adequate claim substantiation violates the FTC Act and may lead to legal action.
As the hemp industry continues to develop, retailers and producers of hemp-derived products containing CBD should adhere to warning letters by the FDA and FTC and be cautious about the claims that are being made about these products. Failure to comply with industry guidance by the FDA and FTC may lead to fines, injunctions, orders to remove products from commerce, and other legal action. Companies operating in the consumer products area of the hemp industry should work closely with their attorneys to understand regulatory guidance and have a clear compliance plan that actively reviews product claims, testimonials, reviews and other website and social media content about such products.
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