A Compliance Nightmare: Perils of Overpromising

November 10, 2021

Written by Highlyte

The FDA is cracking down hard on false advertising claims in CBD products. Promising, or even implying, a product has certain health benefits is one of the diciest parts of navigating compliance. It’s also one of the most important, as such infractions lead directly to fines. In 2019, CannaCraft was ordered to pay $363 thousand dollars in fines for promoting products with scientifically unsubstantiated health benefits. And that’s far from the worst case scenario. Flagrant cases of false marketing can open up an advertiser to class-action lawsuits.

The FDA’s CBD crackdown brought a number of objections to bear against medicinal cannabis advertisers, ranging from promoting unapproved products, to claims that sound a little too good to be true. Attributing specific medical benefits to a product requires the advertiser to back up those claims with hard data, such as PICS/GMP testing standards, which guarantee products safety, quality, and stated efficacy backed up with clinical trials.

Using vague language can be just as problematic, however. Listing out common ailments, from chronic pain to trouble sleeping, and asserting your product can alleviate or assist with symptoms opens you up to scrutiny for each and every condition listed.

But what’s the hang-up? It is well-known that THC and CBD can help alleviate pain, assist with insomnia, and so on. Why are studies and official certifications required to back up common knowledge?

Cannabis connoisseurs know that the effects of a high vary tremendously from strain to strain and brand to brand—it’s one of the things that makes experimenting fun. People suffering from severe illness or other conditions cannot afford to experiment, however. Relief is not something they can leave to chance. And implying a product can provide relief without hard data to back it up is rightfully considered a deceptive business practice. Leveraging potential client’s need to make sales is always a bad play, but it is especially damning where controlled substances are concerned.

That said, most advertisers usually aren’t trying to mislead people out of malice — they are usually operating under false assumptions themselves. Citing generalized studies on CBD, like CannaCraft’s basis for the assertion that their cannabinoids can change gene expression and remove beta-amyloid plaque’ to combat Alzheimer's, is both bad science and bad business, regardless of intention. 

CBD is particularly susceptible to being touted as a cure-all, given the drug’s versatility, low-rate of side-effects, and the wealth of independent studies showcasing its potential benefits. Unless your brand was the specific subject of a study though, whether it pertains to Parkinsons’ or a weak appetite, citing specific medical benefits is asking for trouble.

Highlyte's solution? Leave compliance to the experts, especially where medical benefits are concerned. Cannabis science and legislation both inform and complicate each other and change constantly, resulting in a complex, perpetually shifting regulatory landscape. We believe AI automation and human oversight grounded in expertise is the perfect one-two punch to ensure advertisers don’t overstep their bounds.

Learn more about how Highlyte works by booking a demo with us today