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Why It Matters That Walgreens and CVS Are Now Selling CBD Oil

In the last week, CVS and Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, have announced they will begin selling cannabidiol (CBD) products in select stores. It’s the latest move in the ever-quickening “arms race” between the two retail giants, but it also has larger implications for the fast-growing CBD industry at large.

CBD Oil Is Good for Business

When Walgreens announced that it would be joining its rival in selling CBD products, the move was greeted with enthusiasm by investors. Walgreens stock rose by 0.45 percent following its announcement, while Curaleaf, the company providing CVS’ new products, saw its market value leap to over $4 billion. CVS’ own stock took a dip after Walgreens’ announcement, which is likely due to the latter’s larger commitment to CBD.

Walgreens will carry CBD products in nearly 1,500 stores across nine states, while CVS will stock them in only 800 stores across eight states.

According to Fox Business, CVS plans to sell CBD in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee. Walgreens will offer similar products in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, South Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana.

CVS and Walgreens are the latest mega-corporations to jump on the CBD bandwagon, joining brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the rush to embrace the popular non-psychoactive cannabis derivative. They’re the first national drugstore chains to make the leap, giving them a head start over competitors like Walmart, the third largest chain, who is yet to introduce CBD into its stores in the United States. Currently, Walmart offers CBD oil products only in its Canadian retail outlets.

Both CVS and Walgreens are hoping to capitalize on the seemingly insatiable demand for all manner of CBD-infused consumer goods. When the creator of Jelly Belly announced that he had created a new line of CBD jelly beans, his website received so much traffic that he was completely out of stock within a matter of days. Even the most lukewarm indication of interest is enough to spur excitement from industry experts (and investors) — when Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson mentioned that his company was “well aware of what’s been happening around CBD,” it provoked a flurry of speculation that the coffee giant would soon be offering its own line of CBD coffees and teas.

According to the Wall Street investment bank Cowen, the retail market for CBD products is projected to hit $16 billion by 2025. Other predictions are even more optimistic: the Brightfield Group estimated that it could reach $22 billion by 2022.

The People Have Spoken, and They Want CBD

The skyrocketing corporate interest in CBD has been driven by a corresponding surge in popular demand, as a Walgreens spokesperson acknowledged when they said that the company’s decision was a response to customers’ desire for “accessible health and wellbeing products and services.” Reading between the lines, the message is clear: as the dangers of conventional pharmaceuticals like OxyContin become more obvious (and drug prices continue to increase), ordinary people are searching for alternatives.

Many have already begun to trade their prescription painkillers for medical cannabis, saying that it provides more effective relief of chronic pain, anxiety, and other conditions without the risk of addiction. In a recent study by researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Buffalo, 42 percent of people surveyed said that they were able to completely stop their use of a prescription medication after using medical cannabis. Some of the most common reasons for switching included greater effectiveness, fewer side effects, and lower costs.

Big Pharma has never been especially popular in the U.S. (or elsewhere, for that matter), and its credibility has been further damaged by the ongoing opioid crisis as well as out-of-control drug costs — perhaps the most infamous example being EpiPen, a lifesaving drug whose manufacturers increased the price by 400 percent without changing a single thing about the product. As these types of vital medications become increasingly unaffordable for average Americans, CBD has emerged as an attractive — and much less expensive — alternative.

What This Means for the CBD Industry

Despite all the optimistic predictions of limitless potential for the CBD business, recent events show that there are still some significant growing pains to overcome first. The rapid proliferation of CBD edibles, in particular, has hit a major roadblock recently. States like New York, Ohio, and Maine have cracked down on the sale of such products, citing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ruling that ingredients like CBD cannot be added to foods or drinks without prior approval from the agency. When that approval might come is currently unknown.

The lack of FDA regulation has drawn complaints from many in the CBD industry, especially small business owners frustrated by the confusing and inconsistent enforcement of laws by local health inspectors and police departments. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp (from which the majority of CBD is extracted) on a national level, a great deal of uncertainty still remains about the legal status of hemp-derived CBD.

The longer this legal limbo continues, the less likely it is that these small businesses will be able to compete with the likes of CVS and Walgreens, who will soon be able to flood the market with lower-priced products. While “mom and pop” establishments often operate on razor-thin margins, depending on clever branding and community goodwill to survive, larger chains have massive reserves of capital that afford them the luxury of time — and the economy of scale.

Thus, while the entry of CVS and Walgreens into the CBD market may appear like a good deal for consumers at first glance, serious questions are yet to be answered about the effect this will have on the burgeoning industry.

Will ordinary Americans benefit from the sudden proliferation of high-quality CBD at their favorite drugstores, or are we witnessing the first steps of the monopolization of the sector? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: the world will be watching.

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:

  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Oregon
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont

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:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Tennessee

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.