GMA: Consumers Confused About CBD

Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Consumers Confused About CBD: GMA
With CBD products flooding the market, it becomes more important than ever for federal regulations and oversight to be put in place regarding these items, GMA believes

Demand for cannabidiol (CBD) products may be on the rise – their recent inclusion in a dedicated pavilion at the Natural Products Expo East trade show was just one indication of this trend – but new research from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has found that shoppers are still confused about what CBD is, what it does and whether such products are safe.

What’s more, with one in three Americans already using CBD, most (76%) assume that CBD products are subject to federal regulations and safety oversight when no such regulations currently exist. When informed of this fact, 82% of Americans expressed alarm, with 67% of those saying they were “extremely” or “very” concerned. Another 84% said that they were worried about the inconsistent regulations that could result from the current state-by-state patchwork system.

 “It is the role of federal agencies to ensure a safe and transparent consumer marketplace – but the CBD market is currently the Wild West,” noted Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based GMA, which will become the Consumer Brands Association in January 2020. “Without a uniform federal regulatory framework in place, consumers lack the basic information they need to make informed decisions about CBD. GMA will build a broad-based coalition and lead an aggressive campaign to protect consumers by advancing regulatory clarity.”

According to the organization’s research, six in 10 Americans are familiar with CBD, but they don’t have all the facts. For instance, four in 10 Americans (39%) erroneously believe that CBD is just another name for marijuana, and more than half incorrectly think it can make a person “high.” Two-thirds (66%) of Americans said they believe CBD is safe, however.

Respondents to GMA’s survey said that they use CBD for a various reasons, most commonly for pain management (52%), stress or anxiety reduction (50%), and sleep issues (43%). Additionally, in spite of the lack of reliable research, testing or uniform regulatory oversight, 21% said that they use CBD to ease cancer symptoms or treat the effects of neurological disorders. So far, CBD has been approved by the FDA only for treating epilepsy.

“CBD is a case study in the federal government’s struggle to keep pace with consumer demand,” observed Dr. Betsy Booren, GMA’s SVP, regulatory and technical affairs. “Industry and consumers alike need government to determine safety and provide regulatory clarity. Until this occurs, the most trusted, experienced and highly regulated brands cannot enter the market.”

Eight in 10 respondents to GMA’s survey (79%) said that CBD products should be regulated at the federal level, or federally in concert with the states. GMA’s advocacy campaign plans to encourage the FDA to establish uniform federal regulations overseeing these products.

 Seventy percent of respondents also said that they would have more confidence in the safety of CBD products if they were manufactured by large, well-known brands, as the respondents believe that well-known brands have more safety controls in place (55%), employ higher manufacturing standards (54%), would be more cautious to avoid brand damage (53%), and have more experience in making high-quality, consistent products (53%).

“The Urgent Need for CBD Clarity” report from GMA includes data from a survey of 2,056 U.S. adults (age 18 and older), fielded Oct. 1–15 and powered by Toluna Analytics.

The Food Marketing Institute has also called for consistency in the federal regulation of CBD products, filing comments in July requesting “FDA to move swiftly to provide guidance on a lawful pathway to market for hemp-derived CBD products in order to ensure such products meet applicable quality and labeling standards, as deemed appropriate by FDA.” 

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