CBD in Stores? Walgreens and CVS Take on Cannabis

Guest post by Eric Van Buskirk

Until very recently, cannabidiol- and CBD-infused items either had to be purchased online or through specialty retailers. This restricted availability is partially to blame for the continued stigmatization of cannabis-related products. Then beauty brands like The Body Shop broke ground by offering numerous skin care products infused with hemp or CBD in specialty lines.

As awareness of the benefits of CBD products becomes more mainstream, increased availability via local drugstores will surely take it even further out of the darkness. Two such pioneers who have begun to stock topical CBD-infused products are the drugstore giants CVS and Walgreens. For decades, we’ve relied on both shops to fill our prescriptions, top off our beauty products, and stock our pantries. They’re the current-day corner shop.

Laying the Groundwork

First, it should be emphasized that CBD is a cannabinoid with zero psychotropic effect. The psychoactive component in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means the use of CBD or products infused with CBD are not considered to produce effects that lead to mental impairment. This key distinction is what makes legal distribution of select CBD products over the counter.

The legalization of CBD began with Congress passing the Farm Bill in 2018. This removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Though now legal under federal law, the FDA still has restrictions on CBD being added to food or sold as dietary supplements. However, they will be holding a public hearing on May 31st, 2019 that may change the landscape or loosen restrictions, depending on the conclusions drawn from input received primarily from company shareholders and physicians.

The FDA is also opening a docket for public comment submissions. It’s clear that they aren’t opposed to making hemp or CBD widely accessible, but are trying to find a safe balance for consumers as they introduce it to the market.

Increased Exposure and Accessibility

One of the key benefits of having the products available on store shelves will be the recognition and normalization of CBD as a beneficial ingredient, rather than the “stealth version” of cannabis, as it is classified by less-informed people. It has already been used in numerous topical skin care products that focus on moisturization. This is because CBD has many anecdotal properties that include serving as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-bacterial, and vasorelaxant, to name only a few. Until recently, these products have been primarily marketed overseas where regulations are slightly more lax.

These unique qualities make CBD creams, lotions, patches and salves a very appealing alternative for CVS and Walgreens shoppers. Due to legal restrictions within the US, however, these products can only be stocked in branches located in select states. For the time being, they are Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, and South Carolina.

In late March, Walgreens mentioned plans to include such products in nearly 1500 of their stores. This could all change after the hearing on May 31.

Consumer Choices

CBD is considerably potent in small dosages and can interact with certain medications. This why only topical forms are being made readily available on drugstore shelves for now. Though the selection might be limited, it will provide customers with a natural alternative to pain relief and for calming skin irritations.

In nearly every industry, consumers are making it clear that their purchasing behavior will continue to trend toward organic or natural products rather than those that are chemically engineered. They’re even happy to pay a premium for them if necessary.

A Window of Opportunity for Investors

The promise of widespread availability will do wonders for companies who were early advocates of the CBD revolution. A good example of this is the market activity surrounding the company Curaleaf. After CVS announced its distribution deal to stock 800 of its stores with Curaleaf topical products in March, seasoned investors caused the stock to jump 17 percent within the first 24 hours.

Up to this point, Curaleaf Holdings Inc had already been steadily gaining approximately 41 percent over the year. It’s worth noting that CVS has almost 10,000 branches open worldwide.

As of this writing, Walgreens hasn’t named any specific brands or products it will offer. Considering that they already have over 9,500 stores listed in the United States alone, it’s easy to see that this will cause a huge infusion of capital for topical CBD product manufacturers over the months to come.

Clear Skies Ahead for the CBD Industry

Of course, before shops can fully commit to the sale of any cannabis-based products, a regulatory framework will have to be worked out and implemented to provide detailed guidance for both retailers and suppliers.

We live in a confusing world of health-regulations: Vapes are being pulled from shelves, stores push 18 to 21-year-olds to quit smoking, unregulated supplements have questionable effects but are widely sold, and cannabis legalization is everywhere.  More than ever, the consumer is responsible for reading the fine print.

Let’s hope that regulatory agencies and researchers can work hand-in-glove and constantly adjust to rapid changes in clinical test findings as they come down the pipeline. Such collaboration could mean the difference between failure of CBD and public cannabis availability the continued meteoric rise of this amazing natural therapy.

Thanks to content marketing guru Eric VanBuskirk for his contribution to our blog. We are always dedicated to bringing you up-to-date, informative, and interesting information about cannabis and the culture ever-expanding around it.

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