With any surge in popularity of an herbal supplement, or ‘remedy,’ the industry that produces those products will be met with understandable scrutiny and regulations. But, I’ve never in my life seen such confusing, conflicting, and confounding regulations (or lack thereof,) surrounding, what I think is safe to assume at this point, a completely harmless product. In fact, the only thing harmful about CBD is the failure of the FDA to implement a rollout of regulatory practices in conjunction with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This failure, paired with the vague language that the internet’s largest companies had to draw upon to update their own policies on hemp products, has created a war on CBD. And it’s a seriously weird one.
Did you know you can’t advertise CBD on Facebook, Instagram, or Google? I already know what you’re thinking: “Are you sure about that? I’ve seen all kinds of CBD brands and products in my feed. There’s no war on CBD.”
I’m not doubting you for a second, because I see them, too. Almost daily, even. And, to be completely honest, I can’t figure out why. It goes against Facebook’s Advertising Policy, so they say. Their policy hinges on it being either an “illegal drug” or an “unsafe supplement” (they don’t specify which.) But, CBD doesn’t really qualify as either one of them, and the policy has faced severe backlash, including at least one lawsuit.
While that may seem to be not technically correct, but at least fairly cut-and-dry, it’s not. Because, now, they have decided to let some brands squeak by.
At some point in 2019, Facebook decided that hemp-derived topical and/or non-ingestible products would be allowed, so long as they don’t say “CBD,’ or link to landing pages containing said products. As far as we can tell, it seems that Google and Instagram have adopted very similar guidelines. And this is a problem, because it’s led to the extremely confusing current market of CBD and hemp products. I can’t even imagine how consumers must feel, trying to navigate these waters, and it’s why we go to such great lengths to educate anyone that will listen to us.
I’m going to backtrack a bit before moving on, and suggest that you read through this post, if you’re not familiar with the differences between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. Knowing what differentiates the two will be vital to understanding the remainder of this blog post.
Why should this matter to me?
Why should this so-called ‘war on CBD’ matter to you? Well, it’s a complex issue, and there are several reasons. Let’s dig in.
First of all, there’s a small word that’s led to big talk in the industry over the past year, and it is “compliance.” In an ongoing attempt to outsmart whatever department, filters, or AI that is responsible for banning advertisements for products containing CBD, companies have adopted strategies for making their wares appear to be compliant with the various policies from Facebook, et al. That creates a problem, not only because a product is being marketed as something it isn’t, but because it opens the door for unscrupulous ‘entrepreneurs’ to create the illusion that a compliant product is not compliant. Confusing, huh?
In other words, CBD products are being labelled “hemp oil,” “hemp extract,” etc. in order to give the illusion that they are marketing products that comply with these companies. Because actual hemp seed oil is a vastly different thing than CBD oil. In turn, this practice has led predatory retailers to cash in and sell hemp seed oil to thousands of people that are actually looking for CBD oil. That should be infuriating enough, but it leads to even more problems for consumers.
A market flooded…with junk
I should quickly state, for the record, that there are many more reputable CBD products on the market than I can possibly keep up with at this time. It seems like everyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a few thousand dollars has started (or will start) their own private label CBD brand. And since a good percentage of them are likely made in one of a handful of quality manufacturing facilities that exist right now, it’s safe to say that if you pick a new brand that meets few guidelines, you’re getting a decent product.
But real CBD oil isn’t exactly cheap. So, in addition to an already flooded market creating competitive pricing, the “hemp seed oil disguised as CBD oil disguised as hemp seed oil” ‘industry’ is very possibly pricing many of these reputable companies out of the market. Because actual hemp seed oil really is cheap.
These vultures are preying on the confusion of mis-informed consumers, which there are a lot of. And once these consumers get a deal too good to be true on what they think is CBD oil (but isn’t,) one of two things will and do happen. It either doesn’t do anything for them (because it shouldn’t – because it’s just hemp seed oil,) or the placebo effect kicks in, they think it may have done something, but not enough to justify paying more than they just paid (for hemp seed oil,) and the only people that win are the predatory retailers. The real CBD products sit on shelves in warehouses, or worse – on the shelves of the myriad CBD dispensaries that have popped up in the past year or two. And these dispensaries are experiencing another set of problems, brought on by this war on CBD.
The rise and fall of CBD Dispensaries
The very thought of a CBD dispensary may sound goofy to the experienced cannabis user in a recreationally legal state, but they can serve a community well. I’ve experienced it first hand. The amount of folks whose lives have been changed for the better by CBD products is substantial. And being behind the counter for a day to hear the anecdotal evidence of everything from kicking opioid addictions to reducing seizures in children, is reason enough to believe these dispensaries should be as common as pharmacies, no matter what studies may say about CBD’s effectiveness for any given condition. It doesn’t work for everything or everyone, but for some, it is quite literally the only thing that helps them.
If I were to venture a guess as to the “why” behind the majority of these CBD Dispensaries opening, I would put my faith in the proprietor having their own positive experiences with the compound. It seems obvious that you might want to share your experiences with anyone who will listen, and making a modest living or supplemental income in the process isn’t anything I think of in a negative way. In fact, I think it’s amazing that so many caring and passionate people have been able to use such an amazing natural product to their physical/mental and financial well being.
But, as we all know, brick and mortar retail has been on somewhat of a decline for years. And that shift in the way people generally purchase things is an obstacle, but one that can be overcome by genuine knowledge, experience, trustworthiness, and a savvy marketing strategy or three. Adding a whole new set of obstacles, though, could mean certain death for most of these dispensaries. And a common scenario as outlined above – where a consumer is duped into buying hemp seed oil instead of CBD oil – could very well be that new set of obstacles. It’s one thing to imagine that this theoretical duped consumer would purchase it online again, but it’s another thing entirely to believe that they would go out of their way to a physical specialty retail store for it. And if that theoretical consumer is actually MANY consumers (and I can tell you from experience that it really is MANY,) you can see how hard these dispensaries must work to educate people about CBD in order to grow their customer base. And, in the golden age of social media advertising, you might think that would actually be fairly easy for them.
Except, it’s not. Because the internet’s largest companies have, almost unwittingly, waged a war on CBD.
Results of the war on CBD
It’s not easy at all to advertise on these platforms, which account for most of people’s collective screen time. As we’ve previously stated, attempts at advertising almost always result in false advertising, for the sake of compliance. And, because these platforms have chosen not to update their policies, many retailers, farmers, and upstart brands won’t be able to legitimately advertise or sell their quality products to a market that is practically begging for them. Instead, illegitimate and bootleg products make a quick buck by capitalizing on confusion, and an effective and life-changing supplement for so many becomes a pop culture punch line before it ever actually gets a real chance.
For everyone’s sake, but especially for your own, please buy your CBD products from a knowledgeable retailer that can answer any and all of your questions. If you don’t know what questions you should be asking, please, at the very least, start with this guide. Fight against the war on CBD.