November 20, 2019

Ads for CBD as Cure-All Are Everywhere, but Regulation Is Scant

The agency is “using all available resources to monitor the marketplace” for deceptive advertising and is “working quickly to continue to clarify our regulatory authority” over cannabis products, said Amy Abernethy, the F.D.A.’s principal deputy commissioner, in a statement on Monday to The Times.

Since 2017, the F.D.A. has filed only nine warning letters against CBD companies. The agency “does not have the resources to go after all of the products,” said Lisa M. Dwyer, a lawyer for the King Spalding firm, who previously held advisory roles at the F.D.A.

Cannabis marketing has limited reach, at least for now. ABC declined to broadcast an ad from Lowell Herb Company, featuring the actress Bella Thorne, during the Oscars this year, the marijuana and hemp company said. The marijuana retailer Acreage offered to spend $5 million on a 60-second advocacy message during the Super Bowl, but CBS rejected the pitch, said Joen Choe, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Paid advertising on Facebook and Google is also restricted, but many cannabis companies have still managed to promote themselves on social media. After Kim Kardashian threw a CBD-themed baby shower in April, her posts about the party most likely reached 12.3 million people, according to Captiv8, which connects brands with paid influencers.

“It’s not always clear what the line is,” said Taylor West, who handles cannabis clients for the communications firm Heart + Mind Media.

Some brands are going a different way, with ads critical of the hype. In July, CBDistillery unveiled seven billboards in Times Square that blasted brands trying to capitalize on the craze with products like CBD toilet paper and CBD condoms. The market is like the “Wild West,” said Chris Van Dusen, the company’s chief marketing officer.

“With the industry being so new, and there being so much confusion from the consumer side, companies selling gimmicky products aren’t helping the industry’s cause,” he said.

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