ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Emerging industries related to cannabidiol and hemp are struggling to navigate rapid change as they prepare to meet at a USA CBD Expo on Friday through Sunday in Miami Beach, where announcements are expected about new players and products.
Dust still is settling after a large CBD retailer, Wakefield, Mass.-based Curaleaf, received a warning from the Food and Drug Administration on July 22 that it was making unsubstantiated claims on the health benefits of its products.
Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating compound extracted from the cannabis plant -- either hemp or marijuana. It is widely touted as providing relief from anxiety and pain, and is viewed as an alternative to opioids.
Commercial hemp production was legalized in the 2019 Farm Bill, and several states had jumped into production even before that.
The expo in Miami Beach will feature companies such as Ignite, a cannabis and CBD retailer founded by social media celebrity Dan Bilzerian, and CBD products company Warfighter Hemp, founded by Marine Corps veteran Steve Danyluk and focused on helping people cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially war veterans.
"It's the fastest growing market I've ever seen," said Julie Lerner, a former commodities trader who will moderate a panel of hemp growers at the expo, which will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
In advance of the expo, Lerner on Thursday announced the launch of a new online hemp exchange focused on growers and processors.
Lerner, who previously worked for several large international commodity trade houses, founded her company, PanXchange, to improve efficiency and pricing transparency for East African agricultural commodities. She expanded to the fracking industry by providing an exchange on fracking sand, which is used to extract oil from shale.
Lerner said that PanXchange will be the first legitimate online marketplace that provides clear pricing and other tools for hemp contracts.
"Players are moving out of the gate to scale up, big players," Lerner said. "We'll lose a lot of players over the next year because it's just that volatile now."
"Despite the massive market demand for industrial hemp, the ability for producers to transact with processors and end-users in a transparent, efficient manner is woefully inadequate," she said.
Hemp has many uses. It has been grown for thousands of years for its fiber and oil. It has been made into disparate products ranging from cosmetics to a construction material called hempcrete.
In the United States, hemp fell under regulatory efforts to stamp out its sister plant, marijuana. Hemp actually become a controlled substance in 1970, though it had been killed off as a U.S. crop before that due to heavy regulation.
After the FDA warning, Curaleaf deleted claims of medical benefits from its website. The agency was particularly concerned with claims that CBD could treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease, opioid withdrawal and other conditions.
The warning showed the agency's resolve to take action "against companies that deceive consumers and put them at risk by illegally selling products marketed for therapeutic uses for which they are not approved," Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.
At the same time, FDA officials said they recognize the huge interest in CBD.
"We understand this is an important national issue with public health impact and of interest to American hemp farmers and many other stakeholders," FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said. She said the agency would have more clear guidelines for CBD products this fall.