CBDs: Opportunity and Uncertainty

Hemp association leader outlines the business case for a burgeoning market
cbd forum
Photograph by CSP Staff

DENVER As the executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, Colleen Keahey Lanier is a major supporter of the CBD industry. “We are just overwhelmed with opportunity right now,” she said as the opening speaker at CSP’s inaugural CBD and the Future of Cannabis Forum.

The positive message, however, got lost in a litany of regulatory uncertainties and questionable practices that followed.

Still, Lanier highlighted the big move put forward by the 2018 Farm Bill, which amended the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp, essentially giving states the authority to regulate CBD as they might tobacco, alcohol or other active ingredients.

“We’re now able to look at this from a business perspective,” she said, rather than purely as a matter of legalization.

The that end, Lanier said the hemp-derived CBD market is expected to grow from a $390 million market in 2018 to a $1.3 billion market by 2022, citing New Frontier data.

If recent moves by the supplier community are any indication, that growth will come both from new brands entering the market, as well as household names, such as Jelly Belly, Garden of Life and Martha Stewart, all of which have expressed their intentions to bring CBD-infused products to market.

In fact, New Hope Network, a company offering insights and information for businesses in the natural-products industry, predicts 60% of all consumer brands will feature a CBD product in coming years.

Still, there’s a lot to be cautious about, Lanier said, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins to consider if or how CBD products should be regulated and tested.

Proponents of CBD—a nonpsychoactive element of marijuana also derived from hemp—believe the ingredient can provide a sense of well-being or calm and in some cases help with pain relief. Manufacturers, however, cannot cite such claims on packaging, because they are not proven or overseen by the FDA. Those that do, Lanier said, should be considered suspect. "We've got a lot of folks who are still not operating above board," she said.

Meanwhile, laws for the production and sales of CBD products are different in every state, potentially making selling the products risky.

And with no oversight of product testing, it’s difficult to tell if a product promising 50 milligrams of CBD, for example, will actually include that amount, or any at all.

“It is an unregulated market,” Lanier said. “And police are enforcing [state laws] to the point that the state wants to,” making it difficult to know what’s allowed and what isn’t.

More than 100 convenience-store retailers and suppliers gathered in Denver for CSP’s CBD and the Future of Cannabis Forum to learn about the budding product opportunity and decide when might be the right time to jump into it. The conference continues through April 11 at the Curtis Hotel.

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