Pennsylvania leaders still urge caution with CBD products despite praise from proponents

PITTSBURGH — Federal and state officials continue to urge that consumers be cautious when it comes to using CBD products, despite praise from proponents.

“Both of us love what we take to help our bodies. It helps with sleep. There’s numerous things that CBD and CBG have helped us with,” said consumer Beth Funk, who spoke with us while purchasing products at the Your CBD Store in Bellevue with her husband.

Store owner Kathy Romero has many loyal customers who report positive results when using her products. Romero, however, is very limited in what she can say about those results, considering CBD products are largely unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA defines CBD as “a single compound in the cannabis plant,” and it has only approved one single CBD product used as a prescription to treat certain seizure disorders.

While it’s legal to sell other CBD products derived from hemp, adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement is illegal.

Romero said her company must be very cautious with labeling and cannot make certain health claims.

“You see somebody who has a problem, and you can’t say ‘hey, this probably could help you,’ because you face the risk of getting a fine, or your company getting fined,” she said.

Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said it’s simply unknown whether CBD oil is safe or effective.

The department regulates how and where hemp is grown in the state, which only became legal in recent years via the Farm Bill.

She said research on hemp is being funded at the state level, but much of that research centers on the fiber varieties of hemp.

“We believe in a potential of hemp,” Powers said. “Especially for sustainable building material, for bioplastics that can replace non-renewable materials. It just has this tremendous potential, but CBD hemp is just unknown. I can’t say that enough.”

And when it comes to reviewing studies on the safety and effectiveness of medicinal CBD use, that’s the FDA’s territory.

Romero and proponents believe “feet are being dragged,” but according to Powers, those processes take time.

As things stand now, the FDA warns consumers that the CBD products found in stores “have not been evaluated by the FDA to determine what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs or foods, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.” The agency further notes that consumers may not be buying what they think they are due to “a lack of appropriate processing controls and practices.”

“There have been some independent studies that have shown that the labeling claims like the percentage of CBD in it, the purity, etc., can be off by as much as 98%,” Powers said. “That’s what happens when you have an unregulated product.”

However, in a previous Target 11 report, we tested several locally-sold CBD products, including Romero’s. Each test revealed that the products contained what was advertised.

Romero welcomes any regulation that could ensure products everywhere are sold as advertised across the board. Otherwise, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair to the consumer, and it’s not fair to the companies, because we need to be regulated,” she said. “We need to be legitimized.”

But even without the FDA legitimizing claims made by CBD proponents, many customers continue to purchase products, satisfied that they work.

Funk told us, “it helps with my pain, my fibromyalgia, it also helps with some anxiety issues.”