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Kroger to carry CBD products at 945 stores

Rollout of hemp-derived CBD topicals under way on West Coast

The Kroger Co. confirmed that it plans to roll out cannabidiol (CBD) topical products to stores in 17 states.

Kroger will sell hemp-derived CBD items such as lotions, balms, oils and creams in 945 stores, Kristal Howard, head of corporate communications and media relations at Kroger, said Tuesday. She did not name the brands that will be sold.

News of Kroger’s CBD product distribution emerged this week in published reports. Howard said the rollout has begun on the West Coast, and the products will be at all 945 stores before the end of June.

The CBD products will be carried at stores in Kroger’s Atlanta, Cincinnati, Columbus, Michigan, Central, Louisville, Delta, Nashville, Mid-Atlantic, Roundy’s (Mariano’s and Pick ‘n Save), Dillons, King Soopers, Fry’s, Fred Meyer, QFC and Smith’s divisions.

“Like many retailers, we are starting to offer our customers a highly curated selection of topical products like lotions, balms, oils and creams that are infused with hemp-derived CBD,” Howard said in a statement. “CBD is a naturally occurring and non-intoxicating compound that has promising benefits and is permitted within federal and state regulations. Our limited selection of hemp-derived CBD topical products is from suppliers that have been reviewed for quality and safety.”

While various CBD offerings continue to make their way into stores, many retailers remain uncertain about the regulatory framework regarding the sale and labeling of hemp-containing products. Scientific research on CBD’s purported health benefits also is still in its early stages.

On May 31, the Food and Drug Administration held a lengthy public hearing to get a bead on current scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis derivatives.

“Cannabis contains more than 80 biologically active chemical compounds, including the two best-known compounds: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). If one of these compounds, or the plant itself, is added to a food or cosmetic, marketed as a drug or otherwise added to an FDA-regulated product in interstate commerce, then it falls within FDA’s jurisdiction,” Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said at the hearing.

“Late last year, the federal scheduling of cannabis changed. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, removed hemp — meaning cannabis or derivatives of cannabis with a very low THC content (below 0.3% by dry weight) — from the CSA’s [Federal Controlled Substances Act’s] definition of marijuana. As a result, while marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, hemp is no longer a controlled substance under federal law,” he explained.

Under current law, CBD and THC can’t be added to a food or marketed as a dietary supplement, Sharpless noted.

“There are real risks associated with both those substances, and critical questions remain about the safety of their widespread use in foods and dietary supplements, as well as other consumer products — including cosmetics, which are subject to a separate regulatory framework. And given the new interest in marketing cannabis products across the range of areas FDA regulates, we will need to carefully evaluate how all these pieces fit together in terms of how consumers might access cannabis products,” he said. “Nowhere is this truer than with CBD. While we have seen an explosion of interest in products containing CBD, there is still much that we don’t know.”

At the hearing, Peter Matz, food and health policy director at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), urged the FDA to act swiftly to provide retailers more clarity and create a pathway for the “legal and appropriate sale” of hemp and hemp-derived products. He noted that there’s already “staggering” demand for CBD products ranging from food, beverages and dietary supplements to topical items like creams and lotions.

“I am here to convey the seriousness of the regulatory ambiguity facing our member companies and their customers each day as consumer demand for products containing hemp and hemp-derivatives continues to grow, as does the commercial availability of such products — especially those which count CBD as an ingredient,” Matz said in his remarks. “While most of the stakeholders participating today understand the Farm Bill did not alter FDA’s authority over the use of such ingredients in FDA-regulated products, the fact is there is mass confusion in the marketplace for the public, for suppliers and retailers, and also for state regulators and law enforcement.”

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