Contrary to popular belief — and some false marketing claims — the federal Farm Bill of 2018 did not legalize cannabidiol, or CBD, nationwide.
“We’ve seen a lot of strategic alliances and partnerships between companies looking to prepare themselves to be part of this market, but we’ve also seen a lot of misinformation out there,” Danielle DeFillipis, trademark attorney at Norris McLaughlin Law, said.
While the companies may be ready, many consumers still are not, said Linda Gilbert, CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide and a recognized expert on consumer marketing for wellness products.
“Consumers are very curious and interested in CBD for a variety of different reasons, including viewing it as an alternative to over-the-counter and prescription medications, as a sleep aid, for pain relief and reducing inflammation,” she said. “But, when we ask them very specific questions, they generally cannot give us the correct answers. For example, many people still think hemp can get them high like marijuana or that CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the same thing.
“There is a lot of confusion.”
It’s why the use of CBD in food products was a panel discussion at the ROI-NJ’s inaugural Food & Beverage Innovation Summit, held last Wednesday at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany.
Andrew Linden, cannabis leader at Norris McLaughlin Law, explained that hemp, as per lawmakers, is any substance derived from the Cannabis sativa L plant with less than 0.3% THC, which produces a psychoactive effect.
“The federal Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that possessing hemp or its extracts would not be a criminal act,” he said. “However, the Farm Bill did not take away any power of authority from the Food & Drug Administration, which currently does not allow the use of CBD in any food or beverage products.”
Though New Jersey’s statute currently allows the use of CBD in food and beverages, Linden said, it is specified only to the fullest extent permitted by federal law — of which there are no regulations.
“So, we are constantly going in circles — and the FDA has issued warning letters to businesses in New Jersey already,” he added.
For those consumers who already have tried CBD-infused edibles, Gilbert said potency, quality of ingredients and flavor preferences are of the utmost importance.
“And, while most edibles include gummies and chocolate right now, including those infused with THC, many consumers also want to see infused pizza, ice cream and cookies,” she added. “Consumers want to be able to use this product throughout the day and night.”
Consumers also believe that a chocolate manufacturer, for example, would make a better infused chocolate bar than a cannabis company would.
“Consumers overwhelmingly feel safer purchasing a cannabis-infused chocolate bar from a well-known chocolate brand,” Gilbert said. “And, when we start to infuse products, whether it’s calcium in orange juice or CBD in a cookie, it can be a reason for consumers to choose your brand or category over another.”
Linden said CBD already is out there and growing rapidly.
“We need regulation as soon as possible to both tamper misconceptions as well as make the market more organized and safer,” he said.