The coronavirus crisis is disrupting almost every industry, and the CBD world is no exception. With economies crashing and millions out of work, many in the CBD world are asking themselves if the CBD industry will be devastated as well.
On the one hand, retail businesses are shuttered, and many small, regional CBD brands depend on these retailers for distribution. Local economies are ravaged and entire populations are on lockdown, which means fewer trips to the grocery stores, dispensaries, and any other locations that may sell CBD.
On the other hand, stress and anxiety levels are higher than ever, and CBD is probably the trendiest and best-known anxiety-fighting supplement currently on the market and widely available. Some analysts have noted an uptick in ecommerce sales, so certain online retailers may be well positioned to weather the storm.
This article is your guide to CBD in the age of pandemic: we go over health claims around CBD and coronavirus (yikes), how regulators are responding, how different types of businesses may be affected, and much more.
NO. Dr. Andy Yates, head scientist at the lobbying group Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, told AnalyticalCannabis that, “There is currently absolutely no evidence that CBD can play any role in altering the course of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease and I would strongly urge the CBD industry to stay far away from making any suggestion, however subtle, that it does.”
Some have argued that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may be beneficial, or point to the fact that some research (including this study published in Nature) has found that CBD can improve the condition of people with autoimmune disorders, but ultimately there’s no evidence supporting any of these claims related to coronavirus.
There’s a notion going around that smoking or vaping anything, including CBD flower or CBD vape oil, may make you more vulnerable to coronavirus because it hampers your respiratory system (and coronavirus attacks the respiratory system). Time Magazine even wrote a feature about it. Some news reports have indicated that young people hospitalized for the coronavirus were vapers.
Unfortunately, there’s no solid evidence for or against the notion that smoking or vaping may make you vulnerable to coronavirus. Some studies show potential lung damage from vaping, and there’s a general scientific consensus that smoking anything is probably unhealthy for the lungs. So, it’s reasonable to conclude that smoking or vaping may compromise the respiratory system enough to influence one’s ability to fight coronavirus. In light of that, if you want to be extra careful, we recommend using a CBD oil or tincture.
Fraught times of pandemic, where people are anxious and panicked, are also times when people are most susceptible to false claims. With the world’s eyes on coronavirus and the surrounding panic, many also fear the rise of snake oil salesmen peddling diets or supplements that can supposedly protect people from coronavirus.
The CBD industry, like any other, is likely not immune from such people trying to take advantage of the fears of others. The issue is particularly fraught with tension in the CBD world since it’s already widely accepted that the industry is under regulated (essentially unregulated), and some academic studies have shown that CBD products are commonly mislabelled.
The FDA recently issued warning letters to companies who they charge were promoting products as treatments for coronavirus (including an herbalist in Idaho), and the FDA commissioner announced that the agency would be aggressively monitoring any companies making such claims.
One CBD store in Portland purportedly claimed that their products could “boost immunity” against coronavirus, and was forced to take down this advertising by the Oregon Attorney General.
However, so far there aren’t many examples of CBD purveyors trying to cash in on the coronavirus panic, and the FDA’s aggressive stance will hopefully ensure it won’t happen in the future.
Will consumers, stressed and isolated, turn to CBD for relief?
While CBD may not be useful as a treatment for coronavirus, the level of stress and anxiety in the US and around the world is about at its peak, and stress and anxiety are two things that the evidence indicates CBD can in fact help with help with.
Millions of people are suddenly out of work, while many still employed live in terror of their loved ones, parents, or grandparents taking sick. These are stressful times, so perhaps it’s no surprise that people are turning to the trendiest anxiety-fighting treatment in the land: CBD.
Brightfield Group, one of the leading economic analytics group who has been tracking the CBD industry as it’s exploded over the past few years, conducted a survey of CBD users in mid-March investigating how coronavirus will influence CBD usage, and they found some interesting results:
- 39% of users indicated that they expected to use CBD more during the crisis
- 49% of millenials specifically said they expected to increase CBD consumption
Brightfield also reported that e-commerce sales have seen a small spike since the crisis started, though they were uncertain whether this was people stockpiling or a reflection of future purchasing behavior. They also noted that the brands most likely to survive are ones with a “robust Direct-to-Consumer strategy” (especially focused on ecommerce), whereas most small brands depend on small local retailers.
Nevertheless, while there’s some indication that CBD users may be more open to using CBD during the crisis, CBD isn’t immune to the economic downturn, and the fact that much of the population of the world is increasingly on lockdown and many retail stores are shuttered has been devastating for the CBD industry.
As Brightfield Group put it, “Smaller brands often rely on small or local retailers to distribute the bulk of their products. In the current environment, mass shuttering of retailers around the country is likely to deal a death blow to many of the smaller brands in the market.”
They also note that even prior to the coronavirus crisis, the CBD industry was “already suffering from overcrowding and limited access to capital which was making it very difficult for many brands to keep the lights on.”
What to make of all this? Our translation: big brand, ecommerce-centric CBD companies will survive and perhaps even thrive, while the coronavirus crisis may be something of a genocide for smaller local and regional brands.
In light of all this dour news, we thought we’d share a more positive story that we came across: a CBD manufacturer in Minnesota offered to put their production capacity to work against the coronavirus and started producing hand sanitizer for the local police department. They note that police officers, who have to interact with the community, are at high-risk for infection and wanted to return the favor and offer them some protection.
Where to get CBD during the pandemic
Online stores are still open and mail carriers are still operating, so, without a doubt, the best place to get CBD during coronavirus shutdowns is online. Most major and minor brands have an ecommerce store, so you should still be able to get your brand of choice.
Another option: some cities have CBD delivery businesses that may still be active despite retail shutdowns. These businesses allow you to order online through your desktop or phone, and typically deliver within an hour or two. Just Google [name of your city] + CBD delivery to see if any such delivery services are active near you.
The CBD industry is positioned pretty similarly as countless other industries, with a huge potential for disruption and a likelihood that many smaller local and regional brands will go under. However, there’s a small upside: these are anxious times, and CBD is certainly the trendiest and best-known treatment for anxiety that can be purchased without a prescription. We’ll see ecommerce CBD sales remain elevated into the panic, and what effect this has on retailers and distributors who may not reopen for a long time.