Over the Counter CBD: Walgreens, CVS, and More…
Over the past few years, the CBD market has exploded. A recent report conducted by the Brightfield Group estimates that the industry will be worth an incredible 23 billion dollars by 2023. Not bad for a substance that was, until recently, largely unheard of. Over the past few decades, research into CBD has revealed that it possesses a wealth of potential benefits.
This research led to the 2018 Farm Bill, which ensured that hemp-derived CBD with a THC content of less than 0.3% can now be legally bought and sold.
Since then, support for the substance has continued to grow exponentially, and new CBD companies are springing up left, right, and center. The public is also becoming more aware of CBD, and a recent Gallup survey found that 39% of Americans believe that it should be available over the counter. However, the situation is not as straightforward as you might think.
Is CBD Available Over the Counter?
CBD products seem to be appearing everywhere. The cannabinoid is available as an oil, capsules, edibles, topicals, and is even being infused into food and beverages. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a single CBD product to date. This product is called Epidiolex, a CBD-based medicine which is currently licensed to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Epidiolex is prescription only, meaning that patients cannot access this medicine over the counter. Although many other CBD products can be bought without seeing a physician, these are not approved by the FDA and, therefore, are not subject to such strict regulations.
This lack of regulation poses a significant problem as a lot of the products on offer are of inferior quality.
They may contain more or less CBD than they claim to, as well as potentially being contaminated by pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Our best advice to anyone wanting to buy CBD without a prescription is to find a reputable brand which publishes third-party lab reports on its website. These lab reports will enable you to be sure that your CBD contains exactly what it says it does and nothing more.
Check out our article on the 10 Best CBD Oil Brands to find out more.
Where Can I Buy Over the Counter CBD?
In the past, if you wanted to buy over the counter CBD, you had little choice but to do so online. But, recently, major drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS have joined the party and started stocking CBD in selected stores.
However, these retailers are playing it safe when it comes to the products that they are providing. To better comply with FDA regulations, they have shied away from stocking oral CBD products such as oils, edibles, and infused food and drinks. Instead, they have opted for a range of topical products which can be marketed as skincare or beauty items rather than supplements.
Therefore, you won’t find traditional CBD oil on the shelves of your local Walgreens or CVS.
What you will find is a range of creams, patches, sprays, roll-ons, lotions, and even lip balms. Although these stores are clearly keen to jump on the CBD bandwagon, they are not going to risk upsetting the FDA, a choice that we have to respect.
Over the Counter CBD in Walgreens and CVS
Walgreens and CVS are not taking their decision to stock CBD lightly, and some stores will not be carrying any CBD products at all. At the time of writing, Walgreens has over the counter CBD available in around 1500 stores across nine different states.
You can buy CBD over the counter in Walgreens if you live in:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
CVS is stocking CBD in just 800 of its 9800 stores. You might be able to find over the counter CBD if you live in one of the following states:
In a press release regarding its decision to start stocking over the counter CBD, a spokesperson from Walgreens said:
“The CBD related items we are planning to carry are non-THC containing topical creams, patches, and sprays. This product offering is in line with our efforts to provide a wider range of accessible health and well being products and services to best meet the needs and preferences of our customers.”
On the surface, this seems like a real plus for the CBD industry. But is it as positive as it seems?
Is CBD Over the Counter Safe?
A large proportion of Americans believe that CBD should be available without a prescription. While almost 40% of the general population are in favor, this figure rose to 61% for people who were familiar with CBD and its uses.
A third of people who are familiar with CBD think that the cannabinoid is very beneficial, and just under half believe it has at least some benefits.
However, there are some risks to consider, too. Apart from the lack of regulation, there is another good reason why over the counter CBD might not be as good an idea as it seems.
CBD is widely regarded as safe. It is non-intoxicating and rarely causes serious side effects. However, the fact is that CBD research is still in its relative infancy, and as it stands, we know very little about its long-term effects.
Some research suggests that using high doses of CBD over long periods could cause liver damage. It is also known to interact with various other medications, meaning that it could make them more potent without you realizing.
Another risk of using CBD involves people shunning conventional treatments in its favor. While in some cases, this is not likely to cause any significant problems, when it comes to life-threatening illnesses, it obviously becomes far riskier.
We strongly advise anybody wanting to use CBD to treat a specific medical condition to speak to their physician first. Doing this is still important, even if you intend to buy your CBD over the counter.
Over the Counter CBD in the UK
Despite over the counter CBD being something of a gray area in the US, it is far more widely available in the UK. Major pharmacy chain Boots (which is, incidentally, owned by Walgreens) and leading health-food store Holland and Barrett are now both stocking several CBD products. Unlike their American counterparts, these stores are also carrying oral CBD, including oils, capsules, and lozenges.
Although the market is no better regulated in the UK than the US, these products can be sold in the UK, providing they do not make any medicinal claims.
While this is great for British shoppers in terms of convenience, it is perhaps less advantageous when you consider the safety concerns listed above. There is a genuine danger that uneducated people could assume that because CBD is available over the counter, it is safe to use in any situation.
As the CBD market continues to grow, there is a greater need than ever to ensure that the public knows the potential risks of taking CBD, as well as the benefits. Although much has been written about the numerous health benefits of taking CBD, there is far less information available about the possible harms.
Read our article on the Side Effects of CBD to learn more.
Over the Counter CBD: Final Thoughts
As more and more CBD companies are emerging, it is no surprise that major drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS have decided to get onboard. However, these stores are playing it safe as far as their product lines go. They will only be stocking topical CBD products, for the time being at least.
Across the Atlantic, retailers have been a little bolder, and it is possible to buy oral CBD over the counter in high street stores such as Boots and Holland and Barrett. Since customers now have the option to simply walk into a shop and purchase CBD, it is more important than ever that the general public is educated about its effects.
If you want to buy CBD over the counter, it is wise to speak to a qualified healthcare professional first. This is even more important if you suffer from a chronic medical condition or take any other medication. It is essential to realize that while CBD has many benefits, it is not a substitute for proper medical care. Have a frank discussion with your physician to determine whether CBD is safe for you.
Can a Pharmacy Carry CBD Products?
Several pharmacy owners have recently asked me if they can start selling products infused or containing CBD (cannabidiol). After all, such products do not contain intoxicating properties of THC. And there is some solid research that CBD products alleviate anxiety, seizures, and chronic pain.
Nevertheless, the California Department of Public Health decided that products containing CBD cannot be sold by non-licensed retailers (non-dispensaries). According to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, because CBD products are made from marijuana they should be sold only by licensed cannabis dispensaries. The same applies even if a CBD product is derived from a marijuana’s cousin – hemp – as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.
Federal agencies have taken the same approach. The DEA considers CBD products Schedule I substances. And the FDA recently “has launched a crackdown on CBD products that make unproven medical claims.” Read more from the L.A. Times.
States, however, vary on their approach to CBD derived from hemp. For example, Colorado allows growers to extract CBD from hemp. California, on the other hand, decided to follow the federal guidance on the subject. See Los Angeles Times article “CBD-infused products are being sold everywhere in California – but are they legal?”
Up to this point, however, the Bureau of Cannabis Control had not taken any action against businesses selling products containing CBD. Also, very few local health agencies cite such businesses (according to Los Angeles Times, no citations were issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, San Diego county cited one facility, and Orange county cited 10 facilities so far). This could be a reason why we still see so many CBD-infused products being sold throughout the state.
In addition, many facilities selling CBD products are not regulated by health agencies and therefore not likely to come on the radar of the enforcement agencies. Because the facilities selling CBD products are mostly unregulated, there is no guarantee that the product is not mislabeled and adulterated (for example, it may contain larger amounts of THC then a typical CBD product, it may also contain harmful pesticides and metals).
So what do I say to the pharmacies planning to introduce CBD products to their patients? One word: wait. Such products are derived from cannabis and therefore under both state and federal laws they are classified as Schedule I products. Therefore, when the Board of Pharmacy comes to inspect pharmacies selling CBD products, it may issue citations for violating federal and state controlled substances laws.
I have to note one exception to the above – Epidiolex. So far, it is the only CBD product approved by the FDA and rescheduled into Schedule V by the DEA. In July 2018, Epidiolex was also approved for use under California law. Now California pharmacies may carry and sell this product to their patients. I anticipate that other manufacturers, following in Epidiolex’s manufacturers’ footsteps, will develop and introduce other similar products backed up by significant safety data. So if you want to carry more CBD products in the pharmacy, just wait – changes are coming.