CBD, legal and scientific gray area, gains popularity in South Jersey

In early April, Relievus, a Mount Laurel-based chain of 27 pain clinics across the Philadelphia suburbs and South Jersey, including Linwood, received a scorching letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency called the company’s medical claims about its branded CBD oils and tinctures “egregious.”

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Because CBD products are typically extracted from industrial hemp, and not standard marijuana, which remains a controlled substance on the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration is out of the picture, said Steve Schain, an attorney in Philadelphia. It can be a food additive, a health and wellness product, or a beauty supply product.

The FDA is chiefly concerned if a product is ingestible, like food additives and health supplements, leaving more outlandish products, like CBD bath bombs, to sit on shelves unexamined.

The problem arises, he said, when a company is too cavalier with its advertising or if someone makes a complaint.

“Let’s say this is the Garden State Parkway, and let’s say it’s posted 65 mph,” Schain said. “Well, you know as well as I do, every car going 72 can’t get stopped.”

Still, CBD is firmly on the agency’s radar as its popularity booms.

“What the FDA has said very clearly is that if you make claims about CBD that are unsubstantiated — which almost all of them are, because you couldn’t do research for the last, what, 70 years — they’re going to come after you,” said attorney Bridget Hill-Zayat, who specializes in the energy and cannabis industries. “Maybe that’s OK. … I’ve seen people making claims about CBD that it’s gonna stop cancer cell growth. That’s a problem.”