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CBD warning: Many products have misleading labels, research finds

ATLANTA — There’s a lot of evidence that CBD can help prevent seizures, treat inflammation, relieve anxiety and offer other benefits to both people and pets.

But with virtually no regulation over CBD, there’s little oversight to back up the claims some products are making and what they actually contain.

CBD, which became federally legal in 2018, has exploded into a multibillion-dollar industry offering CBD oils, vapes, gummies, creams and more.

Many of them claim to heal your mind and body. But can you count on the quality of the product you’re buying and proclaimed benefits?

“There are brands that I trust and there’s brands I don’t,” CBD user Michelle Carson said.

“I haven’t seen much of a draw to it personally. I feel like it’s kind of like the old snake oil salesman, a little bit,” said Drew Steusloff.

A new study by Johns Hopkins University researchers found significant evidence of inaccurate and misleading labeling of CBD topical cream products.

“Many of the products were mislabeled. A lot of them had more CBD than they advertised. Many had less CBD that advertised,” said Tory Spindle, Johns Hopkins University researcher.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan learned that many of the creams tested that claimed to be just CBD, actually contained THC, the main psychoactive compound that makes people feel high. That has been true with other CBD products not tested in the study.

“Someone could unknowingly be taking a CBD product that has THC in it, and test positive in a conventional drug test and be totally unaware and caught off guard,” Spindle said.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a CBD oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy.

But that’s it. No other CBD products have been approved for therapeutic use.

Even so, CBD has been sold as an answer to help fight cancer, relieve nausea, and to lower the risk of diabetes among other wild claims.

“I would just encourage people to be wary of therapeutic claims of these products, and to not necessarily believe everything that the products are marketed as they say they are,” Spindle said.

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In May 2022, the FDA sent warning letters to two metro Atlanta companies that sell CBD products. It accused the companies of false and misleading marketing claims not backed by science or clinical research and unapproved by federal regulators. The agency warned the companies to correct the violations or risk legal action.

The CEO of one of the companies told Regan that they’ve addressed and removed product claims cited by the FDA.

“It’s just mostly taking down some blogs and some content in social media posts, that again make those medical claims that we are not allowed to have,” said Chase Slappey, CEO of ATLRx. “We feel like we are in complete compliance with. We’re just waiting on that final response.”

Henry Ostaszewski grows hemp and makes CBD products from his North Georgia farm.

The former FSU football player takes CBD for joint pain and inflammation. He says he doesn’t market it as a cure-all and strives to make a quality, homegrown product.

“We’re making sure what we say is in the bottle is being tested by a third party to make sure that’s what in the bottle,” Ostaszewski said.

He invites more oversight of the hemp-CBD industry to protect consumers.

“We wish the FDA would come on board and regulate this more and put the restraints that we need to make sure we are getting good solid product to our customers,” Ostaszewski said.

Regan contacted the other local company, bioMD+, which received the warning letter from the FDA. However, he did not receive a response for a comment from the company.

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