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Pot Shots: Beware Stunt CBD Products With Edgy Marketing and False Claims

In Culture
OUT LIKE A LIGHT: Canna Bumps, which evoked the image of cocaine, complete with a little spoon and a card for cutting lines, evidently went too far and got bumped from shelves. Photo by THC Living marketing materials

OUT LIKE A LIGHT: Canna Bumps, which evoked the image of cocaine, complete with a little spoon and a card for cutting lines, evidently went too far and got bumped from shelves. Photo by THC Living marketing materials

One day in the late ’90s, I stood awestruck inside the El Cerrito Natural Grocery, where I did most of my food shopping. There in the aisle was a display of what was the most ludicrous food product I’d ever seen: potato chips laced with St. John’s wort, an herb that supposedly relieved the symptoms of depression.

Fast forward to 2014, when an outfit named Lipsmack briefly tried to market powdered booze, which it called Palcohol, until the feds told the company to get real and the product was pulled from the market. 

Booze you can snort or (as the marketing emphasized) mix into a beverage and drink anywhere, might not seem to have much in common with potato chips containing a purported depression remedy, but they are both stunt products sold on dicey claims. 

Palcohol was marketed to people looking to get effed up, perhaps on the sly at a high school dance or in a movie theater. The chips were marketed to the kinds of people who tend to mindlessly sign on with whatever supposed health elixir is in vogue. But both were super shady.

One could see, then, how the legal cannabis industry would be ripe for charlatanism of both types. Pot is an intoxicating substance that people use recreationally, much like booze. But it is also a health and wellness product that many people use, legitimately, to treat pain, seizures, nausea and other maladies. This presents vast opportunities for soulless marketeers and grifters of all stripes. 

Not a few companies market their weed based on how totally baked it will get you. Naming a cannabis strain “Green Crack,” for instance, isn’t meant to appeal to shamanistic seekers of enlightenment or people looking for a pleasant, after-work buzz. That is fine, of course, unless it’s taken too far. “Green Crack” proved to be too far for many sellers, so it’s often (though not always) marketed by other names now, including “Green Cush.” 

And of course, the medical pot industry, and CBD in particular, is rife with charlatanism and outright fraud. That’s a huge problem not only for consumers, but for the many legit purveyors of medical marijuana products.

Last week, Bruce Barcott, the editor of Leafly, published a righteous diatribe aimed at a product called Canna Bumps. Yes, it’s weed you can snort—or it was. 

As Barcott prepared to publish his broadside, the company that made Canna Bumps, Southern California-based THC Living, pulled the product from the market. The company is not talking to the media, but its lawyer issued a statement to Leafly, vaguely blaming a “third party” for creating the product based on THC Living’s technology. 

But from all accounts, Canna Bumps was THC Living’s product. All the Internet marketing for it—which has since vanished—was from THC Living. Canna Bumps came in a vial, just like cocaine often does, complete with a little spoon and a card for cutting lines.

THC Living also isn’t above marketing itself as a “health” company. On its Web page, it brags of its “organic, high quality wellness products,” which include cannabis-infused beverages and a roll-on product, made with THC, that is meant to relieve muscle aches.

THC Living is far from alone; stunt products are popping up all over the place. 

There are “CBD candles” that are marketed for their supposed “aromatherapy” benefits. There are also CBD toothpicks, hand sanitizers and hair pomade. There is some minimal basis for the claims: research indicates that elements of the cannabis plant have some antimicrobial properties, for instance. Other elements (specifically fatty acids) in the plant might stimulate hair growth. But it’s quite a leap from that minimal research to the claims companies are making for these products. 

The Food and Drug Administration is looking into how to regulate cannabis products and CBD, in particular. At some point, government action might tamp down a lot of this stuff. In the meantime, one can buy CBD-laced potato chips, if one wants, of course. They cost $25 a bag. 

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