Amazon has a strange relationship with cannabis. For instance, the company bans the sale of products containing hemp, THC, or CBD within their marketplace, according to its drug policy issued to sellers. But black market retailers could buy many of the materials necessary to produce illicit vaping products, including cartridges and Dank Vape brand packaging, on the shopping platform.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, Amazon quietly pulled many of these products from their listing following the national vaping crisis. In addition, a Washington Post investigation reported that it’s relatively easy to acquire CBD products on Amazon. From a sample of 13 suspected products the Post purchased, 11 tested positive for CBD. Another product showed small traces for THC. None of these products, however, state there is CBD in their product listings. That’s to get around Amazon’s aforementioned drug policy. “Listings for products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are prohibited,” the policy reads.
Entering CBD into Amazon’s search returns over 10,000 results. Some products are books full of CBD information. But many are for hemp gummies, hemp oil, or products infused with hemp oil. Elaine Kwon, a former Amazon manager and founder of e-commerce management firm Kwontified, told the Post that product listings will contain code words, like “full-spectrum hemp extract,” to alert savvy shoppers to what’s really inside.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
“It’s done with a wink-and-a-nod,” Kwon said. Kwon added her belief Amazon executives knows what’s going on with CBD sales on the site, and employ “half-measures” to project an air of serious oversight. “They do know it’s happening,” Kwon said. “It’s a good revenue driver. They are making a lot of money off it.”
In a statement, Amazon denied the claims.
“Amazon does not knowingly permit the sale of products it prohibits,” Amazon spokesman Patrick Graham said.
“Bad actors who attempt to undermine our store do not reflect the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our seller community,” he added. “We move swiftly to hold bad actors accountable by removing selling privileges, withholding funds, and pursuing civil and criminal penalties.”
Amazon’s inability, or unwillingness, to regulate and manage these sales highlights the gray area CBD products exist in. Though 76% of Americans believe CBD falls under federal regulations by the Food and Drug Administration, that is not the case. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal in the United States, which many producers use to extract and manufacture CBD products. But the FDA has only approved of one CBD-infused product, Epidiolex, to treat rare forms of epilepsy. Otherwise the organization has dragged its feet on establishing clear rules and safety protocols as it relates to CBD.
Earlier this year, Ellipse Analytics tested the 250 top-selling CBD products in the country and detected THC levels in 45% of them. Furthermore, 21% CBD products boastings “THC-free” claims in fact had detectable levels of THC in the product.
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