On September 10, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted a press release on its website stating that it sent warning letters to three unidentified companies that sell cannabidiol (CBD) products. CBD is a chemical compound that is derived from cannabis that is legal under federal law (although still illegal in some states), and is often advertised as having health benefits. According to the FTC, the companies had advertised on their websites that CBD could be used to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, AIDS, diabetes, arthritis, PTSD, and depression, among other things. This is not the first time the FTC has sent out warning letters to CBD companies. In March 2019, the FTC and the Food and Drug Administration sent out joint warning letters to other companies for allegedly making similar types of health claims.
While the dialogue around CBD oils (and marijuana in general) has shifted over the last decade, the warning letters the FTC sent out are a good reminder that regardless of what product a company is selling, it needs scientific support for its claims about the health benefits of that product. As put by the FTC in another recent press release: “The gist of the warning letters is that the companies should review their product promises – including representations conveyed through testimonials – to ensure they’re backed up by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Like any other advertiser, CBD sellers who make unsubstantiated health claims could be subject to law enforcement.” All companies, including those that sell CBD oils, should make sure they comply with the FTC’s guidelines regarding health claims or risk being subject to the FTC’s scrutiny. The FTC provides resources for curious advertisers; for example, some tips can be found here.