Cannabis Experts Discuss the Future of CBD

Presenters at the Marijuana Business Conference express excitement—and concern
Photograph by CSP Staff

NEW ORLEANS — While hemp-infused oils, creams and tinctures have already hit retailers, ingestible cannabis—food and beverages—are far from doing so.

Despite holding a combined 12% of share in the cannabis industry, food and beverages will not become common retail items until the industry knows the time of onset and the duration of these products, said Vivien Azer, managing director and senior research analyst for Cowen & Co., New York, a market research and investment banking firm, during her presentation at the 2019 MJBizConNext conference in New Orleans.

This especially applies to cannabidiol (CBD)—the nonpsychoactive component of cannabis—she said at the event, which took place June 12-14.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to go to Congress and ask them to write permissible legislation,” she said. "For the time being, I don't see big [food and beverage] brands going into CBD."

This issue was a hot topic during the FDA’s public hearing regarding CBD-infused food and beverages on May 31. Since then, the FDA has created a working group to spearhead the questions surrounding cannabis and CBD in food and beverages.

Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, New York, a patient-centered health and wellness company, concurred with Azer. CBD is still not an approved nutraceutical or supplement, albeit the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the nationwide production of hemp, he said. Yet, suppliers are still making these items and are putting themselves—and their customers—at risk.

“One of the biggest obstacles is that the industry jumps ahead and sells products that federal regulators are going to be looking for,” he said.

Beyond that, many states still view CBD as a controlled substance, causing confusion among manufacturers and consumers, he said.

“We need to step back and think about how to approach it all, since the state and government legislators counteract each other,” he said. “There are just too many different voices.”

Some experts even believe the CBD industry will lose manufacturers down the road. Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands, Boulder, Colo., a cannabis-infused gummy producer, foresees the bulk of CBD suppliers going out of business when the FDA scripts its guidelines, since these rules will likely interrupt manufacturer’s production processes, she said.

“CBD has enormous potential, and there’s a huge shakeout coming—especially among retailers,” she said. “Top retailers won’t settle for untested products.”

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