Amazon declined to say why it forbids the sale of CBD, other than to say it can decide what to sell like any retailer. CBD is still controversial and its legal situation is murky, with some federal agencies, states and localities prohibiting its sales.
The Post’s investigation illustrates the challenges Amazon faces in policing its platform, which has transformed into an enormous flea market supplied by millions of sellers listing hundreds of millions of items.
CBD is usually derived from hemp, a crop that was legalized in a 2018 farm bill. But it remains illegal to put the compound in food, and the Food and Drug Administration has warned CBD makers several times, including last month, over violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Muddying the waters further, three states — South Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi — make no distinction in their laws between marijuana and hemp plants, meaning CBD is considered a controlled substance in those states. CBD, though, does not contain the chemical in marijuana that makes people high.
SEATTLE — Cannabidiol is one of the hottest supplements on the market today. The chemical, derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and better known as CBD, is now found in chocolates, gummy candies, sodas and more.
To test the e-commerce giant’s ability to police its marketplace, The Washington Post bought 13 products to see if they included CBD. Eleven did.
To keep CBD products off its site, Amazon says it deploys advanced algorithms designed to sniff out descriptions that could hint at the banned ingredient. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Amazon removed some, but not all, of the product listings after being asked about them by The Post. The company said it was investigating with each of the sellers.
None of the listings contained CBD in their descriptions. But consumers could find them by knowing which products contain CBD already — by checking reviews, social media or other websites that did their own testing.
While CBD makers often claim the chemical can help with anxiety, improve sleep and reduce pain, the only legally edible version of CBD is a drug, Epidiolex, prescribed to treat seizure disorders. But because CBD is so widely available and seemingly on a path toward legalization in edible form, prosecutors rarely take action against companies that make supplements or individuals who use them.
“It’s the same product,” said Weller co-founder John Simmons. His company is simply trying to navigate a business with inconsistent rules as the CBD market moves into the mainstream, Simmons said.
One of the products The Post purchased and tested came from Boulder, Colo.-based Weller, which sells a variety of CBD products on Amazon. The company designed new packaging for goods on Amazon different from what it uses on its own website. Its Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites on Amazon omits any mention of its most important ingredient.
“So basically, Amazon states it has banned the sale of CBD supplements on its site, but allows advertising and tagging of CBD instead, inviting an influx of products to consumers that the FDA has been warning about,” said Howard whose organization also tested three other hemp oils being sold on Amazon, and did not detect any CBD. “Essentially, the public is being defrauded twice. First, Amazon’s bestseller, New Age Premium Hemp Oil contains CBD even though its label does not list CBD. Second, those searching for CBD products are being misled into buying products containing zero CBD.”
WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Amazon controls nearly 40% of all e-commerce in the United States and conducts more consumer searches than Google. Its official policy prohibits the sale of hemp products containing CBD/cannabinoid, but search the term “CBD” in Amazon’s search engine and more than 10,000 products will match your request. Dedicated to empowering conscious consumer choices with natural and organic products, Organic & Natural Health Association put Amazon’s bestseller, New Age Premium Hemp Oil to the test by hiring an independent, third-party lab, Alkemist Labs that has experience testing for the presence and levels of cannabinoids. After testing a sample of New Age Premium Hemp Oil 1000 MG, Alkemist Labs report shows 7.7 mg of CBD per 30 drops, which is equivalent to 1%.
Howard says her organization started looking into Amazon’s CBD selling practices when reputable supplement companies were being denied by Amazon to sell CBD/cannabinoid or full spectrum hemp oil. If a company attempts to list a CBD/cannabinoid or full spectrum hemp oil product on Amazon’s site, it will get rejected with a redirect to its drug and paraphernalia policy and the following statement from Amazon: “This product has been identified as a prohibited CBD/cannabinoid product. Items containing CBD/cannabinoid or full spectrum hemp oil, including topical products, are prohibited from listing or sale on Amazon.”
“It’s really important for consumers to know that because Amazon doesn’t allow the sale of products with CBD, there are no reputable companies selling CBD on their site,” said Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of Organic & Natural Health. “Amazon allows companies to tag products with whatever words they choose and they also allow them to purchase CBD ads. This is what populates so-called CBD products on Amazon when consumers search for them, but it’s very misleading. Amazon is not a retailer you should be making quality CBD purchases from, and if you do, then you are likely overpaying for low quality supplements.”
Howard says label claims made on New Age Premium Hemp Oil are also illegal, listing that the product works to: “Naturally Relieve Aches and Pains, including: Multiple Sclerosis Pain, Neuropathic Pain, Osteoarthritis Aches, Sore Muscles, Runner’s Knee and Joints, Neck and Back Pain.” Testing laboratory Alkemist Labs is ISO 17025 accredited and specializes in plant authentication, botanical ingredient identification and quantitative analytical services to the food and beverage, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical industries. They use High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to test products; a technique for separating, identifying and quantifying compounds that are present in a sample. Howard says more testing is required to determine the source of the CBD and whether or not it is synthetic.
In recent statements, Amazon has been vocal about prohibiting the sale of counterfeit products, telling USA TODAY that, “Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products. We invest heavily in prevention, take proactive steps to drive counterfeits to zero, and work with and empower brands through programs like Brand Registry, Transparency and Project Zero.”
“We will continue our analysis of these products on Amazon’s site. Without any requirement for GMPs, consumers are running the risk of consuming products adulterated with processed oils, and we also know synthetic cannabinoid is in the market. If we were able to easily find CBD in Amazon’s bestseller hemp oil, it’s anyone’s guess what the other products contain or which ones are adulterated,” said Howard. “This deception Amazon is spoon-feeding consumers on CBD is highly irresponsible to millions of Americans in search of legitimate CBD supplements to help specific health ailments including stress, sleep and pain.”