More than 1,500 CVS stores in eight states, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Colorado, Alabama, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, now sell Elevate-branded CBD-infused pain relief cream, which is derived from hemp, from cannabinoid consumer product company Axcentria Pharmaceutical. Elevate claims the cream treats "chronic pain, sore tired muscles, arthritis pain, joint health, stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation," and retails at $39.99 for a four-ounce jar, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
Cannabis company Curaleaf last week also announced during a conference call with analysts that a number of its CBD products will be sold at 800 CVS stores in eight states, including California, Illinois, Colorado and Alabama.
In an email to Retail Dive, a CVS spokesperson didn't name the companies it's working with but confirmed the sale of "hemp-derived CBD products at select stores in seven states (CA, CO, IL, IN, KY, MD, TN)" that "include topical products such as creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves. We are not selling any CBD-containing supplements or food additives. We are working with CBD product manufacturers that are complying with applicable laws and that meet CVS's high standards for quality."
Sales of CBD, which unlike THC doesn't trigger a high, are taking off after a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule change effectively decriminalized hemp, a cannabis plant variety produced for industrial uses.
"CBD is gaining popularity among consumers, particularly those looking for alternative care products," the CVS spokesperson said.
CVS joins several health and beauty companies, including Authentic Brands Group, Free People, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, DSW and Sephora, in offering non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) products, claiming wellness attributes like anti-acne, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. The Food and Drug Administration, however, earlier this year warned against making unverified health claims about CBD. The market holds a lot of sales potential, but the lack of consumer awareness both helps and hinders that.
"There is an absolute gold rush to get into the CBD space right now, from entrepreneurs starting new brands, to supplement companies ... going hard into hemp-derived CBD products," Bethany Gomez, managing director of market research firm Brightfield Group, which projects that the CBD industry will reach $22 Billion by 2022, told Retail Dive in an email. She also noted that consumer awareness was low to start, leaving opportunities for more brands to enter the market. "The challenge here is that there are no regulations on the fly by night brands that don't test their products, and consumers have a hard time differentiating between brands with high quality products and those who have poor manufacturing practices, or don't even have CBD in their products at all."
CVS, in its statement to Retail Dive, took care to note that it has chosen companies that claim to ensure the quality and safety of its goods. The manufacturers are making similar points: Elevate, for example, says its products are made in an "FDA registered facility."
"CBD is a new category for retailers so having confidence in the product was tantamount. The Elevate CBD team brings decades of pharmaceutical expertise, and we hold the gold standard in production in this fledgling industry, which is why we are trusted," Justin Finck, Elevate CBD vice president of sales said in a statement, adding that he expects more stores and more products to eventually be added.
The FDA is likely to weigh in further, according to Gomez, given the number of major retailers getting into the space.