Snake oil or cure-all?
CBD’s star set to rise in the face of a pandemic.
By Herschel Maasdorp, CEO of CANNAFRICA (lifestyle brand of Labat Healthcare – retail division of Labat Africa)
The novel Coronavirus may have wiped out whole industries in the long tail of its economic cyclone, yet it has shaken up others, leaving them ripe for the kind of innovation that only a crisis of this magnitude can catalyze. When it’s a matter of survival, buzzwords such as ‘pivot’ swiftly become platitudes, as whole sectors clamor to retain relevance and safeguard their place in a post-COVID world.
One industry that is primed for exponential growth in the wake of the pandemic is that of Cannabis, specifically cannabidiol (CBD). According to the World Health Organization, CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. CBD is non-psychoactive and exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential . This non-psychoactive compound has been heralded as a panacea by devoted users, who commend it for its pain-relieving , anxiety-alleviating , and sleep-promoting properties .
CBD’s role in a time of COVID is becoming ever more prominent, if the international scene is anything to go by. Alphagreen.io, a UK-based CBD marketplace, recently revealed that spend on CBD products in Britain surpassed £150m in the first four months of 2020, putting the market on track to achieving a staggering 50% growth when compared to the previous year.
Some are touting this boom to be a side-effect of the wholly unsubstantiated belief in certain users that CBD could possibly alter the trajectory of the COVID-19 disease.
While one Canadian study titled ‘In Search of Preventative Strategies: Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues’ tentatively showed that certain strains of CBD may potentially lower the risk of contracting COVID-19, the lab conducting the study was quick to caveat that far more research was needed .
I would caution anyone – specifically those within the industry – against suggestions of this nature, and to be extremely wary of filling the vacuum of fear wrought by the pandemic with unfounded claims. Appearing as snake-oil peddlers undermines our hard-won credibility; something that the global industry has fought for, and is still battling to establish among certain stakeholder groups.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) bars CBD companies from making claims that a product can ‘diagnose’, ‘cure’, ‘treat’, ‘mitigate’ or ‘prevent’ any medical conditions. These guidelines are in line with International i.e. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States’ Regulatory Authority. In addition, CBD Manufacturers & Distributors are required to adhere to strict guidelines when, developing marketing content related to CBD products. The Google advertising policy still prohibits brands from promoting CBD products to online users.
While certainly no cure for Corona, there’s substantial evidence in support of CBD’s anti-bacterial , anti-anxiety [7,3] and anti-inflammatory [2,4] properties, making it highly attractive in the midst of a global pandemic. Along with virtually every other business, the CBD industry took a knock during South Africa’s initial hard lockdown in March, as consumer spending ground to a halt in the face of the proverbial rainy day, which had suddenly materialized. However, CBD retailers have experienced a rapid recovery – particularly those with e-commerce platforms, as many consumers continue to give brick-and-mortar outlets a wide birth.
This rising popularity is for two reasons: firstly, in a disease pandemic, wellness becomes a high-value currency & Self-care’ has taken on a whole new meaning: having finally outgrown the sheet mask, it now encompasses the full spectrum of mental, emotional and physical health, cementing its place in society. CBD has shown that it may contribute towards promoting homeostasis by boosting endocannabinoid activity, leading to a growth in demand as consumers seek to enhance their immunity. The second reason is the sharp spike in conditions such as depression and anxiety in South Africa.
While wide-scale unemployment has risen across the globe, the deep fissures that already exist in our country’s socio-economic fabric have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) recently reported that the number of calls to mental health and suicide hotlines had more than doubled since the beginning of lockdown, and were climbing every day.
In short, the post-COVID landscape is a fertile breeding ground for increased chronic stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence, and self-harm.
Stress management is an area where CBD shines. One study  that investigated cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders showed that systemically administered CBD lowered acute increases in heart rate and blood pressure. CBD conclusively demonstrated its efficacy in mitigating anxiety related behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), among others, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects .
With consumers under mounting pressure, there’s no disputing that CBD has a valuable role to play in a post-COVID world. This places an even greater responsibility on us, as an industry. It is vital that we avoid making unverified or grandiose claims. We must commit to ongoing education that will empower our customers, while adhering to the parameters laid out in the regulatory framework. Remaining transparent and ethically accountable will ensure our industry’s long-term viability, in a world forever changed by this pandemic.
Now would be a smart time to invest in Labat.
For more information see https://labat.co.za/investor-relations/
Cannabidiol (CBD) critical review report. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Fortieth Meeting,
Geneva, 4-7 June 2018. World Health Organization 2018. https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
Fine PG. et al. (2014). Cannabinoids for neuropathic pain. Curr Pain Headache Rep;18:451. Blessing, E. et al. (2015). Cannabidiol as potential treatment for anxiety disorders.
Neurotherapeutics, 2015 Oct; 12(4), 825-836.
Ferguson G. (2015). Review article: et al. Sleep, pain and cannabis. J Sleep disord Ther;4(2):1-5.
Wang, B. et al. (2020). In Search of Preventative Strategies: Novel Anti- Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues
Mark Blaskovich, PhD, senior research officer, Centre for Superbug Solutions, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.
Shannon, S. et al. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety & Sleep. Perm J. 2019 Jan; 23:18-041