The year 2023 was a turbulent one for the cannabis industry, especially for the cannabidiol (CBD) sector, which faced regulatory uncertainty, scientific breakthroughs, and social challenges. CBD, a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp or marijuana plants, has been touted as a potential remedy for various health conditions, such as pain, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy. However, the legal status, safety, and efficacy of CBD products remain unclear in many jurisdictions, creating confusion and frustration for consumers, manufacturers, and retailers. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the CBD industry in 2023.
Regulatory Inaction: The FDA Remains Silent on CBD
One of the biggest hurdles for the CBD industry in 2023 was the lack of clear guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for regulating food, drugs, cosmetics, and dietary supplements in the US. Despite the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and hemp-derived CBD at the federal level, the FDA has not yet issued any rules or regulations for CBD products, leaving them in a legal limboThe FDA has only approved one prescription drug containing CBD, Epidiolex, for the treatment of rare forms of epilepsy.
The FDA has repeatedly stated that it is working on a regulatory framework for CBD, but has not given any timeline or specifics. The agency has also warned consumers and companies about the potential risks and unknowns of CBD, such as liver damage, drug interactions, and inaccurate labeling. The FDA has also cracked down on some CBD companies that made unsubstantiated health claims or sold adulterated products.
The lack of FDA regulation has created a patchwork of state and local laws that vary widely in terms of CBD legality, testing, labeling, and enforcement. Some states, such as Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont, have established their own hemp and CBD programs that align with the 2018 Farm Bill and provide some oversight and standards for the industry. Other states, such as Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota, have banned CBD altogether or restricted it to medical use only. Many states and cities have also imposed taxes, fees, or bans on CBD products, especially those intended for human consumption.
The regulatory uncertainty has hampered the growth and innovation of the CBD industry, as many companies have faced legal challenges, financial losses, or market barriers. Some CBD companies have also faced lawsuits from consumers who alleged that they were misled or harmed by CBD products. For example, in October 2023, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Charlotte’s Web, one of the leading CBD brands in the US, accusing it of selling products that contained more THC than advertised and caused positive drug tests for some customers.
Scientific Milestones: New Research and Development on CBD
Despite the regulatory hurdles, the CBD industry also witnessed some scientific achievements and advancements in 2023. Several studies and trials were conducted to explore the potential benefits and mechanisms of CBD for various health conditions, such as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some of these studies showed promising results, while others were inconclusive or contradictory. For example, a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June 2023 found that CBD did not reduce pain or opioid use in patients with chronic non-cancer pain. However, another randomized controlled trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in September 2023 found that CBD significantly improved the quality of life and reduced the frequency of seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.
In addition to clinical research, some CBD companies also invested in product development and innovation, aiming to improve the quality, safety, and effectiveness of their products. For example, GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Epidiolex, announced in July 2023 that it had developed a new formulation of CBD that could be administered as a nasal spray, which could offer faster and more consistent absorption than oral solutions. Another example is Elixinol, a CBD company based in Australia, which launched in November 2023 a new line of CBD products that used a patented technology called Quicksilver Delivery Systems, which claimed to enhance the bioavailability and onset of CBD by using nanoemulsions and liposomes.
Social Progress: CBD Gains More Acceptance and Awareness
The year 2023 also saw some positive social changes and trends related to CBD, as more people became aware of and interested in the cannabinoid. According to a Forbes Health survey of 2,000 US adults conducted by OnePoll, 60% of respondents had tried a CBD product and believed that it offered some medicinal benefits. The survey also found that nearly 65% of US adults believed that CBD was safer to consume than alcohol, yet only 44% believed that CBD should be legal. The survey also revealed that one-third of US adults were not confident in their understanding of the different types of CBD products, such as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
The popularity and demand for CBD products also increased in 2023, especially in the wellness, beauty, and pet sectors. According to a report by NielsenIQ, the sales of hemp CBD products declined by 10% across traditional retail channels in the US, but the sales of non-hemp CBD products increased by 14%. The report also predicted that the CBD market would grow by 40% in 2023, reaching $1.7 billion in sales. Some of the most popular CBD products in 2023 included gummies, oils, capsules, creams, beverages, and dog treats.
The CBD industry also benefited from some celebrity endorsements and collaborations in 2023, which helped to raise the profile and credibility of the cannabinoid. For example, in March 2023, Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru and TV personality, launched her own line of CBD products for pets, featuring soft chews, oil drops, and wellness gummies in various flavors and formulas. Another example is Seth Rogen, the actor and comedian, who co-founded a cannabis company called Houseplant in Canada in 2019 and expanded it to the US in 2023, offering both THC and CBD products, such as pre-rolled joints, dried flower, vaporizer pens, and softgels.
Conclusion: The Future of CBD Remains Uncertain but Hopeful
The year 2023 was a mixed bag for the CBD industry, as it faced both challenges and opportunities. The main challenge was the lack of clear and consistent regulation from the FDA, which created confusion and risk for the industry and consumers. The main opportunity was the growing interest and demand for CBD products, as well as the scientific and social progress made in the field. The future of CBD remains uncertain, but hopeful, as the industry and consumers await more clarity and guidance from the FDA and other authorities. In the meantime, the CBD industry will continue to evolve and innovate, offering new and improved products and services to meet the needs and expectations of the market.