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Buyer Beware: CBD Products Could Be This Century’s Snake Oil

By Cindy Krischer Goodman Sun Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) CBD oils, salves and tonics are being heralded for relieving sore muscles, soothing aches and even helping to alleviate social anxiety. But how much do we really know about CBD? Cindy Krischer Goodman takes a closer look.

Sun Sentinel

Drive to Wynwood to indulge in CBD-infused cold brew that will take away your anxiety. Head to the Plantation farmer's market and snap up CBD-infused honey to cure your trouble sleeping. Take a trip to a med spa in Boca Raton and pick up a CBD-infused topical cream for your shoulder pain.

South Florida has become flooded with CBD products for sale, luring buyers with promises of pain relief and medicinal aid.

The buzz about CBD has been fueled by celebrities including Kristin Bell, Emma Roberts and Jennifer Aniston, who have said the CBD oils, salves and tonics relieve their sore muscles, soothe their aches, and alleviate social anxiety.

Even with all the endorsements, though, consumers have no real knowledge of the validity of the claims of CBD's healing powers. Some labs report that dangerous and deceptive ingredients are showing up in CDB products. The industry's lack of regulation and transparency has opened the door for serious concerns:

-Product labels are inaccurate or misleading. -Products contain other additives that alter your mood. -Metals, pesticides, bacteria and solvents from cannabis plants are surfacing in products. -Concentrations of CBD are lower than advertised. -Many products for sale remain untested.

Nationally and in Florida, there is no requirement yet that CBD products contain the ingredients manufacturers say they do, or the healing power suggested in their marketing brochures. For now, the medical science isn't there to definitively back up the touted health and therapeutic benefits of CBD products.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the cannabis plant. It is used in products like oils and edibles to provide feeling of calm, but CBD is the non-psychoactive portion of the plant and won't give you a high.

Lack of research has sparked questions such as "How much CBD is safe to consume in a day?" and "How might CBD interact with other drugs a person might be taking?"

Renee Proffetta of Boca Raton, a proponent and user of CBD products, sees the risks. She says the CBD oils and vape help alleviate her anxiety and mood swings, improve sleep issues and allow her to cut back on pharmaceuticals. But consistency is her big concern. At times, when she has replenished her supply, the product seemed different, even from the same dispensary.

"You might not get the same effect with every batch, but you know when something isn't right," she said.

SHOULD THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STEP IN? On May 31, the Food and Drug Administration held the first-of-its-kind hearing on CBD to determine if or how to regulate the industry to ensure products are safe and health claims have data to back them up. The lineup of 110 speakers included representatives of companies with a lot of money at stake, as well as researchers, scientists and organizations charged with protecting public health.

With billions at stake in how the FDA decides to regulate the compound, exactly how long the agency will need to figure it out remains unclear. The FDA will continue to accept public comments through July 2, 2019.

In the meantime, buyer beware.

"Companies aren't following testing protocol, and some are disingenuous about what is in their product," said Derek Thomas, vice president of business development for Veritas Farms, a Fort Lauderdale company that operates a 140-acre hemp farm and processing facilities in Colorado. "Sometimes there is less cannabinoid and sometimes more. Sometimes there are other additives like Viagra, THC, or pain-killer compounds. This is one area where there needs to be tight regulations."

Both hemp and marijuana are sources for CBD-rich cannabis oils. Legally, Floridians need a medical marijuana card to buy marijuana CBD oils and products. However, because hemp has less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation, the state does not consider it marijuana under Florida law and CBD products with it are legal.

Legal, however, does not mean regulated, standardized, safe, or even effective.

FLORIDA WILL NEED TO FIGURE IT OUT, TOO In Florida, the industry is poised to become a booming source of growth for the economy. A bill approved by the state Legislature recently gave Florida growers the green light to create hemp programs beyond the university research setting. More hemp growing will lead to more CBD-infused wellness products. Florida, in turn, will need to get a regulatory handle on the industry. That oversight, and enforcement, could take a while, though.

With no regulation, some lab operators say they are finding odd ingredients, and lots of inconsistency.

Chris Martinez, who operates Evio Labs, an industry-accredited cannabis testing laboratory in Davie, has observed the ways in which companies are taking advantage of the absence of regulations. His lab tests CBD products for pesticides, bacteria, metal, solvents and potency (the levels of cannabis). Martinez said not all labs have the same machinery and the ability to detect smaller levels of substances.

"Some labs will run a test and show not an element is not detected, but their instrument can't go deep into the product and the consumer doesn't know," Martinez said.

Martinez said while testing products he has seen results that illustrate how haphazard the industry is at this time. "We might test five bottles from a manufacturer and one has two and one has one, and one has none at all. There is no consistency in products," he said.

Martinez said some products have substances made in China that have high levels of metals, and some have ingredients to simulate CBD. "They will put melatonin in so you will feel relaxed and think the CBD is taking effect," he said.

When products test unsafe for consumers, Martinez said he talks with the manufacturer to try to remedy the formulation.

"Ultimately that's why we got into the business, to create a standard of safety, but legally there is nothing I can do to stop them from selling their product."

FLORIDA REGULATORS ARE GETTING READY Holly Bell, director of cannabis for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said she is waiting for the Florida governor to sign the hemp bill and for it to become effective on July 1.

She plans to get public input in rules around the growing and distribution of hemp, acceptable amounts of contaminants, standards around testing laboratories, procedures for issuing and renewing licenses, and repercussions for violating state requirements. She expects to have an outline in late fall of what the rules will be.

Bell said her goal is for hemp-derived goods in Florida to require a certificate of analysis, which is a lab report on the chemical make-up of a product. However, her department will regulate only CBD products that are consumed _ nothing topical, vaped or considered a pharmaceutical.

Still, she said the onus at this time is on the buyer.

"Do some research; there are a lot of great books you can read," she said. "Also, know the person in front of you may not have any more experience with the product than you do. Ask for certificates from labs ... a lot of stores will have them on hand to show you."

CONSUMERS WANT CBD In Boca Raton, Alec Vindas greets a steady stream of customers who wander into Health Synergy, a CBD hemp oil dispensary that carries its own brand of products, including capsules, oils, gummies and salves.

Many patrons are seniors with anxiety, sleeping issues or aches and pains from inflammation or arthritis. They are looking for relief and have heard of CBD's medicinal benefits. Vindas and his co-workers assess the customer's ailment. "We make recommendations based on the condition. Different conditions require different methods of intake."

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