The retail giant will sell certain products CBD in nearly 1,500 Walgreens stores. Is CBD available over the counter? The answer isn't as simple as you think. If you're wondering where to buy CBD oil, we run you past your options.
Walgreens to sell CBD products in stores: What to know about the buzzy wellness trend
Products containing CBD — the buzzy cannabinoid used in everything from lotions to gumdrops — will soon be showing up on the shelves of Walgreens stores across the country.
The retail chain announced Thursday it will begin offering certain products containing CBD, cannabidiol, in nearly 1,500 Walgreens stores in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, South Carolina, Illinois and Indiana.
The CBD-related items offered in Walgreens stores will be topical creams, patches and sprays. The products will be “non-THC containing,” according to the company.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant that causes the “high” associated with marijuana. CBD does not.
“This product offering is in line with our efforts to provide a wider range of accessible health and wellbeing products and services to best meet the needs and preferences of our customers,” Walgreens said in a statement.
Another retail giant, CVS, announced last week that it also will begin slowly rolling out CBD products in some of its stores.
“Anecdotally, we’ve heard from our customers that have used those products that, gee, it’s helped with pain relief for arthritis and other ailments,” CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in a CNBC interview. “We’re going to walk slowly, but we think this is something customers are going to be looking for as part of the health offering.”
With CBD becoming more easily available on the marketplace — Soul Cycle is now selling it too — and consumers have questions.
Here is what to know about CBD, from the health benefits to whether it’s legal to use.
What is a Cannabinoid?
There are three types of cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally in the body; man-made cannabinoids, which can be really dangerous; and the most popular, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, which come from the marijuana plant.
All three kinds of cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body. CB1 receptors, located primarily in the brain, are believed to control mood, memory, sleep, appetite and pain. CB2 receptors are located in parts of the body that produce blood cells, such as the spleen, and are believed to affect inflammation.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it’s one chemical compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant — in both marijuana and hemp. CBD differs from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) because it doesn’t cause the intoxicating, euphoric “high” associated with marijuana.
What are the health benefits?
Though there are claims of health benefits wherever you go, the science isn’t quite there yet — most of the research that has found benefits was done on animals. That’s because researching marijuana legally is difficult. Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, defined as having “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Still, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence.
In June 2018, the FDA approved a CBD-containing seizure medication called Epidiolex, which can be used for the uncontrollable seizures caused by diseases such as Dravet Syndrome, a seizure disorder that can be uncontrollable with typical medications.
One of the most common uses of the drug, which is in a form called Dronabinol, is FDA-approved for chemo related nausea and vomiting. It is also used to help with appetite stimulation, especially in the cancer or AIDS population.
CBD is also widely used to treat pain and anxiety. Scientists are quick to say they are still unsure of the way this works, but they believe it may be due to CBD altering some brain pathways linked to these symptoms.
In skin care, CBD has been reported to treat itchiness, acne and allergic dermatitis — a skin reaction to allergies. While the mechanisms here are also unknown, scientists think it may be due to cannabinoid receptors in the skin which, when activated, work to reduce inflammation and arthritis.
As states move to legalize these compounds to the public, all of these claims will need to be studied.
How do people use CBD?
Many CBD products are sold as oils or balms, but they are also available in lotions, facial serums, lozenges or as part of cocktails. Although manufacturers claim there is an appropriate dose for the products they make, that is up for debate. The nutrition and supplement business, in general, is highly unregulated and this includes CBD products, even in states with legal marijuana.
What are the risks?
Both the benefits and risks of CBD lack substantiated research. As with any supplement, there is always a risk for unintended drug interaction. A small number of studies on animals indicate that CBD could potentially affect cell health and the breakdown of drugs in the liver. In humans, a study that investigated CBD’s effect on seizures noted side effects including diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and increased sleepiness.
Why is it popular now?
In a word: marketing.
Similar to vitamin C and kale, CBD is undergoing a rise to fame just similar to the way that kale has been labeled a “superfood,” which is a non-medical buzzword. And with celebrities publicizing anecdotal benefits, there’s been easing tension surrounding CBD’s stigma.
But most importantly, as mentioned, it’s being marketed as a fix for various ailments.
Is it legal to use CBD?
Not Exactly. As mentioned, marijuana is still a schedule I substance, and that includes CBD.
The issue of legality comes down to how the CBD is obtained. The THC portions of the cannabis plant include the flowering tops (buds), the leaves and the resin of the plant. The remainder — the stalks and sterilized seeds — is where most CBD comes from. However, producers can also obtain it from the THC portions in which case it might yield a mixture of THC and CBD.
According to Katherine Pfaff, a spokesperson for the DEA, “If the product does cause THC to enter the human body and/or contains greater than 0.3 percent of THC, it is an illegal substance that may not be manufactured, sold or consumed in the United States. If, however, the product does not cause THC to enter the human body and contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it is a non-controlled substance that may lawfully be sold.”
The National Institutes of Health lists over 150 studies involving CBD as a treatment for various diseases. The World Health Organization concluded in a press release that CBD is not harmful. And in the sports world, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed it from its prohibited substances list.
To top this off, CBD is widely available online as well as in countless bars and coffee shops nationwide. This legal ambiguity undoubtedly confuses consumers, and it won’t change until further research trickles in.
The bottom line is there are countless claims regarding CBD’s ability to cure common ailments and there are also many places to buy CBD over the counter. But while there are many people willing to answer for CBD, the reality is there are still many questions that the industry itself needs to answer.
Dr. Sumir Shah, an emergency medicine physician in New York City, and former member of the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.
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.