The past few years, the market for CBD has grown exponentially. With everything from CBD salve to CBD water, among other CBD-only products for a demographic of the cannabis-curious who shy away from getting high, companies have banked on the cannabis plant’s second-most prominent, non-psychotropic cannabinoid.
In 2016, hemp-derived CBD sales hit $170 million. By 2020, the market is expected to hit $1 billion, according to a report by the Brightfield Group. The market is growing every year, expected to experience a 55 percent growth rate over the next five years.
CBD first became popular with CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s 2013 documentary Weed, which told the story of a girl named Charlotte Figi from Colorado. She suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy causing her to have at least 300 seizures a week. By the time she was five, she could hardly speak, her development severely compromised by her condition. Then her parents found the Stanley Brothers, who had a strain of cannabis high in CBD that could curb Charlotte’s seizures. Using the strain that became known as Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte came to experience only a couple seizures a month.
CBD’s spike in popularity can be attributed to its common extraction from hemp, rather than marijuana plants. Hemp plants contain little enough THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, that hemp-derived CBD-only products could be transported across state lines, and hence available in all 50 states. The legality of this is still ambiguous, but nonetheless, has contributed to CBD’s exponential market growth.
Still, one of the study’s most “surprising” findings was that, while many companies are operating in the CBD space, only a few have significant revenues, according to Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield. “Essentially everyone is trying to do hemp, but only a handful are doing it well,” she said. “It’s seen as easy because it can be sold online, but with restrictions on traditional marketing, it is very difficult to connect with your core consumer and even communicate why they need your product.”
The report found that 64.5 percent of sales happen online, while 17.8 take place in smoke shops, nine percent come out of dispensaries, and the rest are through doctors’ offices. Seven percent of the CBD market share belongs to CW Hemp, which is produced by CW Botanicals, while five percent belongs to PlusCBD Oil, produced by CV Sciences. Other companies like HempMeds, Elixinol, and CannazALL each have two percent of the market share. In 2016, the top 20 CBD brands alone averaged $2.1 million in sales.
That said, not all CBD brands are created equal. It’s important to look out for snake oil, and to be sure that the products don’t contain adulterants, since hemp, itself, is a bioaccumulator that sucks up toxins from the earth. Nonetheless, once you find a reputable brand of CBD, you can use it for all kinds of ailments, including seizures, pain, inflammation, insomnia, and even anxiety. In fact many people take CBD as they would any other vitamin or supplement, allowing it to build up in your body gradually.