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Last month, the federal agency known for warning letters and wrist slaps began to get really tough with bad actors selling CBD-based products. The Federal Trade Commission took action against six companies found to be making unsubstantiated health claims about their products — including such false statements as being beneficial for treating cancer, heart disease  and Alzheimer’s disease.

These companies had to pay fines to the FTC ranging from $20,000 to $85,000, as well as notify their customers of the FTC’s order. How audacious were their claims?

In Utah, Bionatrol Health had claimed its CBD oil treated pain better than Oxycontin … and First Class Herbalist had also claimed its oils, creams, coffee and gummies outperformed Oxycontin. In California, CBD Meds made claims that its extract is an effective treatment for artery blockage, glaucoma and autism … and Reef Industries claimed its products were effective treatments for arthritis and IBS.

In Florida, Hempme CBD marketed its gummies, lozenges and oils as treatments for substance abuse and AIDS. And in Colorado, Steve’s Distributing marketed tinctures, gummies and capsules as effective alternatives to prescription medications for diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Joining the party was the Food and Drug Administration, which is also issuing warning letters to companies selling CBD products in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. As well as false medical claims, the agency is on the lookout for violations regarding using CBD as a food additive or marketing it as a dietary supplement.

Much of this increased vigilance is pandemic-related, as consumers are increasingly vulnerable to exaggerated therapeutic advertising claims made by online sellers. In addition, economic distress has produced a wave of substance abuse disorders for which people are seeking treatment. So the industry has received a very clear message from Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection: “Don’t make spurious health claims that are unsupported by medical science.”

Of course, this is in no way a condemnation of the industry: both the FTC and the FDA have expressed their support of scientific research into the real benefits of CBD. But if the scientific support is lacking, claims about diseases and health issues continue to be off limits, and will now be on regulators’ radars for financial penalties and consumer redress.