The products can have drug-like effects on the body and contain CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Both CBD and THC can be derived from hemp, which was legalized by Congress in 2018.
“Given what we know about the safety of CBD so far, it raises concerns for FDA about whether these existing regulatory pathways for food and dietary supplements are appropriate for this substance,” FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, told The Wall Street Journal.
A 2021 FDA report valued the CBD market at $4.6 billion and projected it to quadruple by 2026. The only FDA-approved CBD product is an oil called Epidiolex, which can be prescribed for the seizure-associated disease epilepsy. Research on CBD to treat other diseases is ongoing.
Food, beverage, and beauty products containing CBD are sold in stores and online in many forms, including oils, vaporized liquids, and oil-based capsules, but “research supporting the drug’s benefits is still limited,” the Mayo Clinic said.
Recently, investigations have found that many CBD products also contain THC, which can be derived from legal hemp in a form that is referred to as Delta 8 and produces a psychoactive high. The CDC warned in 2022 that people “mistook” THC products for CBD products, which are often sold at the same stores, and experienced “adverse events.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA warn that much is unknown about CBD and delta-8 products. The CDC says known CBD risks include liver damage; interference with other drugs you are taking, which may lead to injury or serious side effects; drowsiness or sleepiness; diarrhea or changes in appetite; changes in mood, such as crankiness; potential negative effects on fetuses during pregnancy or on babies during breastfeeding; or unintentional poisoning of children when mistaking THC products for CBD products or due to containing other ingredients such as THC or pesticides.
“I don’t think that we can have the perfect be the enemy of the good when we’re looking at such a vast market that is so available and utilized,” Norman Birenbaum, a senior FDA adviser who is working on the regulatory issue, told the Journal. “You’ve got a widely unregulated market.”
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.