Walk in almost any gas station or quick-mart in Alabama and you will see a sign advertising CBD oil. Proponents of CBD – the shortened name for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant– say it helps with medical conditions ranging from seizures and epilepsy to PTSD and chronic pain.
But while you will find CBD at the checkout counter alongside drinks, cigarettes and gum, you won’t buy it at drug stores in Alabama – at least not yet.
According to Susan Alverson, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Alabama Board of Pharmacy, the pharmacy prohibition has to do with CBD’s current classification.
“CBD is still registered as a (Schedule 1) controlled drug in Alabama,” Alverson told AL.com. “Even though the federal government has reclassified CBD and CBD oil, the state law and classification still stands until the category is changed in the state. Pharmacies must report to the Board of Pharmacy, and we cannot give them permission to sell CBD since the law has not changed.”
In December 2018, the U.S. House passed the Farm Bill, which contained a provision legalizing CBD derived from industrial hemp, as long as it has a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent. Technically, the bill changed the legal status of hemp from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity.
That decision meant people could buy and sale CBD legally.
In its guidance, however, the Alabama Board of Pharmacy said until the Alabama Department of Public Health removes hemp and hemp-derived products from the list of Schedule 1 Controlled Substances “Alabama pharmacies and pharmacists must abide by the strictest rule. In this situation, the strictest rule is CBD products containing any THC are a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under Alabama law.”
If or when ADPH amends that designation, pharmacies would have the ability to sell CBD products, the board said.
As to why you can buy CBD at a gas station and not at pharmacy, the board provided this guidance: “While the Board of Pharmacy understand that there are other entities selling these products, the board cannot and does not regular those entities that do not possess a permit with the board nor does the board have the authority to change the status of a controlled substance.”
A cure all?
Alverson said the growing use of CBDs raises several concerns.
“All in all, there are a lot of questions about the CBD oil itself plus the many components contained within the oil,” she said. “So many claims have been made for use of the CBD oil and claims about its healing ability. In fact, there is no real documentation for most of the claims. That raises questions; should people use the CBD oil if they do not know if it will work. Is it all right if people use the product and have no benefit? Or is it OK if people use the product, and by-pass more traditional treatment, and then CBD oil has no impact?”
The Food and Drug Administration, which recently held its first hearing on CBD, also has reservations regarding its medical benefits.
“Other than one prescription drug product to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any other CBD-containing products,” Dr. Amy Abernathy, principal deputy commissioner of the FDA said. “We want consumers to be aware that there is only limited available information about CBD, including about its effects on the body.”
Among the questions the FDA seeks to answer in future hearings are the safe levels of daily CBD consumption and any possible long-term exposure issues, as well as how it interacts with other drugs.