The discount store chain announced earlier this month that it will introduce 20 CBD products at 1,100 locations in Tennessee and Kentucky, with plans to expand availability to seven additional states by spring 2020. According to a Dollar General press release, the items will be „limited to topical cosmetic products“ such as creams, ointments, and face masks, as opposed to ingestible oils and edible items.
All of the products will cost between $7 and $20, a Dollar General spokesperson told Business Insider. The move will further democratize CBD, which has already proliferated across the US, while helping Dollar General reach new demographics with the buzzy product.
„As with many of the products we carry in our stores, our decision to offer CBD products is based on customer interests or demands,“ Jason Reiser, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said in a press statement.
Despite CBD’s growing ubiquity, Dave Marelius – chief scientific officer at Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, which runs quality-control tests for cannabis companies – said consumers should be cautious when purchasing CBD items, a product category his team describes as „the wild wild west.“
„I wouldn’t go [to Dollar General] day one and buy CBD products,“ he said. „I would go to a place where I know there has been testing done and I know what I’m buying. To me, priority one is safety. Priority two is making sure I’m not wasting my money and that what I’m actually buying has CBD and it has the amount of CBD that the package claims.“
Foto: sourceAP Photo
‚You’re always going to have some players cut corners‘
CBD – short for cannabidiol, a key compound in cannabis plants – remains unregulated in the US, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration in November that „a number of questions remain regarding CBD’s safety“ after it cracked down on 15 companies that were illegally marketing CBD products. Further, the FDA stated that due to a lack of scientific evidence, it „cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe.“
As a result, responsibility for the quality and safety of the products rests in the hands of the manufacturers and the retailers, both of which are liable in the case of illness or harm, according to foodborne illness attorney Bill Marler.
Marler added that due to the lack of oversight of CBD, consumers should be mindful about usage, particularly when considering items at lower price points that may be less thoroughly tested.
„The problem is that without some level of regulation, you’re always going to have some players cut corners,“ Marler said. „If the price goes down enough, some of the thought-through standards regarding food safety might be left to the edges. You want consumer prices to go down, but at some point the safety measures that prices afford a business are compromised.“
Complicating matters, Dollar General and competitors Dollar Tree and Family Dollar were recently embroiled in controversy after selling products deemed to be a threat to consumer safety. In August, the companies were collectively fined $1.2 million by New York Attorney General Leticia James over their sales of expired products such as over-the-counter drugs. Dollar General was further cited for selling motor oil that was incompatible for most engines manufactuered after 1930.
„Dollar General is committed to providing its customers with high-quality, reliable products, which includes taking the necessary steps to ensure that products on our shelves are within their respective sell-by dates,“ the company said in a statement to CNBC at the time. „We took immediate action to address the situation, and we continue to work with our store teams to ensure that the Company’s expectations regarding expired products are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.“
Dollar General was not able to provide specifics around which companies are producing its CBD products and declined to comment further on its CBD efforts.
Using CBD safely
While Marelius said the risk of experiencing negative symptoms from these products is fairly low, the worst case scenario could involve manufacturers using carcinogens or harmful cutting agents like vitamin E acetate, the chemical causing illness among Juul users.
„It really comes down to making sure that [manufacturers] are doing safety testing so that they’re not accidentally introducing something that’s harmful to people,“ Marelius said. „It’s hard to know when they’re purchasing bulk materials if those bulk materials are safe.“
Marelius suggested that consumers interested in dabbling in CBD should visit either a licensed cannabis dispensary or else ensure a retailer transparently shares manufacturing information. By doing this, shoppers can also avoid false and misleading advertising in which companies claim products contain more cannabidiol than they actually do.
„I don’t want to scare people,“ Marelius said. „I don’t think that there’s going to be any safety concerns with people selling CBDs. I’m assuming everything’s going to be fine. These are just worst case scenarios.“