Several pharmacy owners have recently asked me if they can start selling products infused or containing CBD (cannabidiol). After all, such products do not contain intoxicating properties of THC. And there is some solid research that CBD products alleviate anxiety, seizures, and chronic pain.

Nevertheless, the California Department of Public Health decided that products containing CBD cannot be sold by non-licensed retailers (non-dispensaries). According to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, because CBD products are made from marijuana they should be sold only by licensed cannabis dispensaries. The same applies even if a CBD product is derived from a marijuana’s cousin – hemp – as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.

Federal agencies have taken the same approach. The DEA considers CBD products Schedule I substances. And the FDA recently “has launched a crackdown on CBD products that make unproven medical claims.” Read more from the L.A. Times.

States, however, vary on their approach to CBD derived from hemp. For example, Colorado allows growers to extract CBD from hemp. California, on the other hand, decided to follow the federal guidance on the subject. See Los Angeles Times article “CBD-infused products are being sold everywhere in California – but are they legal?”

Up to this point, however, the Bureau of Cannabis Control had not taken any action against businesses selling products containing CBD. Also, very few local health agencies cite such businesses (according to Los Angeles Times, no citations were issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, San Diego county cited one facility, and Orange county cited 10 facilities so far). This could be a reason why we still see so many CBD-infused products being sold throughout the state.

In addition, many facilities selling CBD products are not regulated by health agencies and therefore not likely to come on the radar of the enforcement agencies. Because the facilities selling CBD products are mostly unregulated, there is no guarantee that the product is not mislabeled and adulterated (for example, it may contain larger amounts of THC then a typical CBD product, it may also contain harmful pesticides and metals).

So what do I say to the pharmacies planning to introduce CBD products to their patients? One word: wait. Such products are derived from cannabis and therefore under both state and federal laws they are classified as Schedule I products. Therefore, when the Board of Pharmacy comes to inspect pharmacies selling CBD products, it may issue citations for violating federal and state controlled substances laws.

I have to note one exception to the above – Epidiolex. So far, it is the only CBD product approved by the FDA and rescheduled into Schedule V by the DEA. In July 2018, Epidiolex was also approved for use under California law. Now California pharmacies may carry and sell this product to their patients. I anticipate that other manufacturers, following in Epidiolex’s manufacturers’ footsteps, will develop and introduce other similar products backed up by significant safety data. So if you want to carry more CBD products in the pharmacy, just wait – changes are coming.

See a similar blog post “Cannabis products are coming to a pharmacy near you.”