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CVS Health Corp. has debuted cannabidiol (CBD) products in select stores in eight states. The products, which include topical creams, CVS is going to sell CBD products over-the-counter in 800 stores in 8 states, CVS Health CEO Larry Melo said.

CVS Begins Selling CBD Products in 8 States

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health Corp. has debuted cannabidiol (CBD) products in select stores in eight states. The products, which include topical creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves, are available in various CVS stores in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee, a spokesperson for the company told CSP Daily News.

CVS is not selling CBD-infused supplements, food additives or edibles, the company said.

“Cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining popularity among consumers,” the spokesperson said. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard from our customers that these products have helped with pain relief for arthritis and other ailments.”

In late 2018, the U.S. Farm Bill essentially legalized products made from hemp that contain CBD oils, so long as they contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

CBD has enjoyed rapid market growth due to its alleged medicinal qualities and the product category is expected to reach $5 billion in sales by 2027, according to CBD research firm New Frontier Data, Washington; however, there are still plenty of questions regarding its safety and legality, causing concern and hesitation among retailers to get involved.

CVS began selling the CBD products in mid-March.

“This is our initial entry into this emerging product category that we think is something consumers are going to be looking for as part of their health care offering,” the CVS spokesperson said. “We’re going to walk slowly into this new category and continue to actively monitor the regulatory landscape for CBD products, and will expand product availability as appropriate and in compliance with applicable laws.”

Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health has nearly 10,000 retail drugstores and more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics nationwide. The company is a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 22 million medical benefit members and 68,000 retail network pharmacies.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mitch Morrison asked the room of retailers one question as the final panel of this year’s Convenience Retailing University commenced: “How many of you know what CBD is?” Roughly half the room raised their hands.

“Now, how many of you are selling CBD in your stores?” asked Morrison, vice president of retailer relations for Winsight Media, CSP’s parent company. Crickets.

CBD—the nonpsychoactive ingredient in marijuana or hemp—was one of the hottest topics at this year’s event in Orlando, Fla. The final panel, which featured experts in retail and cannabis, offered insights into what the product is, market opportunities, the regulatory landscape and merchandising strategies for convenience stores.

Here’s how retailers can approach CBD and what they can expect in the upcoming months regarding its regulations …

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that crafted last year’s Farm Bill, is making guidelines for various states to cultivate hemp and make it legal, said Rachel Gillette, partner and chair of the cannabis law practice firm Greenspoon Marder LLP, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This means retailers will have to craft their CBD plan-o-grams around these regulations, especially for CBD edibles, which have been forcibly removed from certain states over the past few months.

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“The FDA will come out with a pathway for us to see CBD in foods or as a dietary supplement,” she said. “That would give a lot of states and retailers clarity and cure any confusion.”

These programs are also essential for law enforcement officials, who often ignore or confuse the difference between CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis .

“If we have this conversation a year from now, it’ll be a very different legal environment,” she said.

There appears to be a combination of excitement and caution regarding CBD among retailers. Erin Butler, senior category manager for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go LC, said that although she hopes the chain is selling CBDs within the next year, it is still a hypothetical situation until the regulations unfold.

“We don’t want to risk any legal ramifications,” she said. “We’re exploring, talking with suppliers and making plan-o-grams for our stores. But we won’t act until we know that we can, legally.”

Although there is no age restriction for CBD yet, many retailers plan to display the product behind the counter like tobacco products. This is exactly how Kum & Go will approach the category, Butler said.

“We’ll have it behind the counter in a display and have educational materials, similar to buying Sudafed at a drugstore,” she said.

Nik Modi, managing director for RBC Capital Markets, New York, compared today’s CBD hype to the early stages of e-cigarettes: people are talking, they’re excited, but they don’t know how to approach it.

The lesson retailers can learn from this comparison is that research is critical, he said. Such research includes diving into the manufacturer’s history, what their products are and if they’re well-capitalized.

“Everyone wants to chase the trend, but there’s no guidance and infrastructure,” he said. “I’d urge everyone to take your time about how you approach the category.”

Gillette concurred, also suggesting retailers question their CBD suppliers on where their products are manufactured, their general production process, and, most importantly, on lab results. Confirming that CBD products don’t contain more than 0.3% THC—the legal limit per product, according to the Farm Bill—goes a long way, she said.

“There are labs that are certified to test CBD, and you’ll want to call and verify those test results,” she said. “Even if you’re unknowingly selling CBD oil that contains more than 0.3% THC, you can be arrested.”

Despite the murky waters, suppliers can still help retailers make CBD distribution a seamless process. Such support includes offering as many educational tools as possible, including pamphlets and brochures, and ensuring their products contain absolutely zero THC, said Floyd Landis, founder of Floyd’s of Leadville, Leadville, Colo.

“Some companies, even if they don’t say it, are selling hemp-derived products with more THC than considered safe,” he said. “The safest thing we can do is remove THC entirely and educate consumers. It’s an unnecessary risk to have any levels of THC at all in these products.”

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CBD has been touted as a budding product and surging category for retailers. But is that what it really is? Modi argues that retailers shouldn’t think of CBD as a product or a category, but as an ingredient—and one that will emerge in nearly every area of the store, he said.

“CBD is like nicotine and caffeine: It has functional benefits and will be placed in many products in your stores,” he said. “That’s how this category is going to evolve. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking this is its own category—it’s an ingredient that will arrive in every category.”

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CVS to sell CBD products in 800 stores in 8 states

CBD-infused sprays, roll-ons, creams and salves will be offered as an ‘alternative source of relief’.

CVS to sell CBD-infused products

CVS Pharmacy announced Wednesday that it will begin selling hemp-derived CBD products in eight states. The national drug store chain will be marketing the topical cannabidiol products, such as creams, sprays and roll-ons, as “an alternative source of relief,” CVS said in a statement to NBC News. CVS will also be partnering with a company to test and verify the quality of the CBD topicals sold in its drug stores.

“We are carrying hemp-derived CBD products in select states to help meet consumer demand for alternative care options,” said CVS Health Spokesperson, Mike DeAngelis.

The items will be sold in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.

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CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the hemp plant, a close relative to another member of the cannabis family, marijuana. Both plants contain abundant types of cannabinoids, but marijuana is high in the psychoactive chemical THC, while hemp is rich in CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has generated quite a buzz for its potential medicinal benefits.

CBD has been touted as a treatment for a wide range of conditions — including anxiety, pain, inflammation and even cancer — but little reliable research has been done on CBD’s effects on humans, experts say. The only FDA-approved CBD oil is Epidiolex, an oral solution prescribed for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

“Societies have jumped far far ahead of science,” said Dr. Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center and director of Columbia’s Marijuana Research Laboratory. “So it’s showing up in lotions and pretty much any form of product one can use. There’s a lot of different ways one could use CBD, but the ways we have studied CBD is much more limited.”

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CVS has at least 9,800 stores nationwide and will soon roll out the CBD products in over 800 stores in the eight states. The health care chain says that effectiveness claims will vary from product-to-product, but that the company does not plan to market any of the items as a ‘cure-all’ product.

“We’re going to walk slowly, but this is something we think our customers will be looking for,” CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said in an interview Wednesday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

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The company noted that they would not be selling any CBD-based supplements or food additives. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, it is illegal to introduce drug ingredients like CBD into the food supply or to market them as dietary supplements.

“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement in December.

For this reason, CVS will market the creams and salves as over-the-counter medicinal products, merchandised in a dedicated display.

There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD.

To assure accurate labeling and safety for customers, CVS has partnered with Eurofins, a third party laboratory, to test all CBD topicals for THC, CBD content, and other contaminants, DeAngelis said in the statement to NBC News.

“We are working only with CBD product manufacturers that are complying with applicable laws and that meet CVS’s high standards for quality. Only products passing these independent tests are offered for sale in our stores,” the statement said.

Some experts believe the move by CVS to sell CBD over-the-counter may provide more questions than answers, at least initially.

“It’s a way to reduce the stigma for a product that really doesn’t deserve to be stigmatized,” said nutritionist and cannabis practitioner Brooke Alpert. “On the other hand, because of the lack of regulation it raises questions like: do people really know what they’re getting; can other brands get away with selling inferior products; and where can people find more information about these products?”

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Another big concern for experts is that patients will avoid proven medications in favor of CBD.

“There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD,” said Haney.

Dr. Shamard Charles is a physician-journalist for NBC News and Today, reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.

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