One of the largest convenience store chains in Pennsylvania is getting in on the CBD craze.
Altoona-based Sheetz is selling hemp-based CBD products at 144 of its 279 stores around the commonwealth.
“In order to meet the needs and preferences of its customers, Sheetz will offer both isolate and full spectrum products including topical rubs and patches, tinctures, vape pens, oral pouches, capsules, pet products and more,” the company said in a news release.
The products have seen a surge in use following looser rules governing hemp, which is regulated by the state Department of Agriculture. CBD use is also on the rise with the availability of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania to those with permits.
The type of CBD products for sale at Sheetz are hemp-based and contain no more than .3 percent of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces euphoria. The term “CBD” is an abbreviation of “cannabidiol,” the active ingredient, which is found in hemp and cannabis.
Medical cannabis proponents tout CBD as a remedy for a wide range of conditions, from inflammation to epileptic seizures. However, the science is still unclear on its benefits and risks.
The federal Food and Drug Administration is racing to learn more about it and to set guidelines around it. The FDA notes, products advertised with “unsubstantiated therapeutic claims” put people at risk.
“These products have not been shown to be safe or effective, and deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in April. “Additionally, because they are not evaluated by the FDA, there may be other ingredients that are not disclosed, which may be harmful.”
There are also risks because the product is being taken without medical supervision, Gottlieb said. He noted that the FDA-approved drug Epidiolex, which has CBD in it, has the potential for liver injury.
“These are serious risks that can be managed when the product is taken under medical supervision in accordance with the FDA-approved labeling for the product, but it is less clear how this risk might be managed in a setting where this drug substance is used far more widely, without medical supervision and not in accordance with FDA-approved labeling,” Gottlieb said. “There are also unresolved questions regarding the cumulative exposure to CBD if people access it across a broad range of consumer products, as well as questions regarding the intended functionality of CBD in such products.”
As the FDA scrambles to better understand the substance and to implement regulations on its labeling and marketing, more stores are embracing it. Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens say they plan to carry it.
People are embracing it as well: According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, “more than a quarter of people in the U.S. say they’ve tried CBD,” and “One out of 7 of those people said they use it every day.”
Sheetz doesn’t endorse any health benefits of CBD, and is simply responding to customer interest for people 18 or older, said spokesman Nick Ruffner.
“We’re not making any particular health claims with this product, and we are also, obviously, following the law,” Ruffner said.