Among Wednesday’s education sessions, as part of the 2019 NACS Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Oct.1-4, were two about cannabis and CBD: “Cannabis, Marijuana, CBD: The Practical and Legal Outlook” and “CBD, Hemp, Edibles: What Retailers Need to Know About This New Category.”
This is the first year that the NACS Show has featured a CBD pavilion, and there’s excitement from attendees and exhibitors surrounding these relatively new industries.
Despite being hailed as a major development for the cannabis industry, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill did not offer a panacea of opportunities for retailers seeking to sell cannabis products.
In fact, today only a narrow set of CBD products can legally be sold by retailers.
Nonetheless, many retailers are taking the risk to sell other hemp-derived CBD products, and even cannabis-based products, in stores and online.
Cannabis, Marijuana, CBD: The Practical and Legal Outlook
In the first education session about cannabis and CBD, moderated by ISEE Store Innovations LLC Marketing Director Melissa Vonder Haar, speakers Scott Sinder, partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and Steve Bernstein, partner at Fisher Phillips, discussed the current legal framework surrounding these products.
Sinder spoke about which states have legalized cannabis: 11 states have legalized cannabis recreational, 33 states and Washington, DC have legalized for medical purposes, and 13 have “decriminalized to some degree,” with nine states “considering to go full legal on the ballot this year.”
“This is the biggest, fastest-growing industry in the country,” he said.
He also spoke about looming FDA regulations on the category.
“The FDA, they are in a bind, and I feel for them. … I don’t think we’re doing to see any comprehensive reform this year,” he said, though he believes there’s an “excellent chance we’re going to see reform” in other, related areas, like the Safe Banking Act.
The speakers also discussed workplace practices and policies governing substance abuse.
Even when states and cities legalize or decriminalize cannabis-related products, companies can still conduct drug tests on their employees.
“This is a universe that, frankly, folks, we never contemplated even five years ago, but we’re in it now,” said Bernstein.
Bernstein emphasized the importance of employee training within stores that offer these new products.
“Should we be training employees on selling marijuana? The answer to that questions should be a firm yes,” he said.
CBD, Hemp, Edibles: What Retailers Need to Know About This New Category
In the education session, “CBD, Hemp, Edibles: What Retailers Need to Know About This New Category,” Colleen Lanier, Executive Director of the Hemp Industries Association, and Kristen Nichols, editor of Hemp Industry Daily, defined key terms surrounding cannabis and gave background information, such as from where these substances and products derive and how they affect us.
They also analyzed the current CBD consumer and their potential overlap with convenience consumers, and communicate basic CBD product information to staff and consumers.
Key terms included “cannabis,” “cannabidiol,” “terpenes” and “hemp.”
“Hemp is cannabis; it is part of that fam, but it is its own sub-variety,” said Lanier.
She pointed out that there are 113 known cannabinoids. While CBD trending now, here are 112 other cannabinoids, and she expects many of them to become popular in the future, mentioning CBN and CBG specifically.
Nichols emphasized that these substances and products affect everyone differently, and she warned of the dangers of the black market.
“As you know, the black market is toxic to both market research and consumers,” she said. “Why is the black market toxic to consumers? Because you don’t get any good information.”
And there are plenty of consumers of these products. Nichols said 26% of all Americans have tried CBD, adding that the fastest-growing segment is people aged 60+.
As far as FDA regulation, Nichols said she’s skeptical that the FDA will offer much guidance in the near future.
“It took the FDA 17 years to regulate Vitamin C,” she said.