CVS Health Corp. has debuted cannabidiol (CBD) products in select stores in eight states. The products, which include topical creams, We take a look at why CVS is now carrying CBD products, and which brands this massive pharmacy chain will be stocking. Here's all you need to know.
CVS Begins Selling CBD Products in 8 States
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health Corp. has debuted cannabidiol (CBD) products in select stores in eight states. The products, which include topical creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves, are available in various CVS stores in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee, a spokesperson for the company told CSP Daily News.
CVS is not selling CBD-infused supplements, food additives or edibles, the company said.
“Cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining popularity among consumers,” the spokesperson said. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard from our customers that these products have helped with pain relief for arthritis and other ailments.”
In late 2018, the U.S. Farm Bill essentially legalized products made from hemp that contain CBD oils, so long as they contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
CBD has enjoyed rapid market growth due to its alleged medicinal qualities and the product category is expected to reach $5 billion in sales by 2027, according to CBD research firm New Frontier Data, Washington; however, there are still plenty of questions regarding its safety and legality, causing concern and hesitation among retailers to get involved.
CVS began selling the CBD products in mid-March.
“This is our initial entry into this emerging product category that we think is something consumers are going to be looking for as part of their health care offering,” the CVS spokesperson said. “We’re going to walk slowly into this new category and continue to actively monitor the regulatory landscape for CBD products, and will expand product availability as appropriate and in compliance with applicable laws.”
Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health has nearly 10,000 retail drugstores and more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics nationwide. The company is a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 22 million medical benefit members and 68,000 retail network pharmacies.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Mitch Morrison asked the room of retailers one question as the final panel of this year’s Convenience Retailing University commenced: “How many of you know what CBD is?” Roughly half the room raised their hands.
“Now, how many of you are selling CBD in your stores?” asked Morrison, vice president of retailer relations for Winsight Media, CSP’s parent company. Crickets.
CBD—the nonpsychoactive ingredient in marijuana or hemp—was one of the hottest topics at this year’s event in Orlando, Fla. The final panel, which featured experts in retail and cannabis, offered insights into what the product is, market opportunities, the regulatory landscape and merchandising strategies for convenience stores.
Here’s how retailers can approach CBD and what they can expect in the upcoming months regarding its regulations …
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that crafted last year’s Farm Bill, is making guidelines for various states to cultivate hemp and make it legal, said Rachel Gillette, partner and chair of the cannabis law practice firm Greenspoon Marder LLP, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This means retailers will have to craft their CBD plan-o-grams around these regulations, especially for CBD edibles, which have been forcibly removed from certain states over the past few months.
“The FDA will come out with a pathway for us to see CBD in foods or as a dietary supplement,” she said. “That would give a lot of states and retailers clarity and cure any confusion.”
These programs are also essential for law enforcement officials, who often ignore or confuse the difference between CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis .
“If we have this conversation a year from now, it’ll be a very different legal environment,” she said.
There appears to be a combination of excitement and caution regarding CBD among retailers. Erin Butler, senior category manager for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go LC, said that although she hopes the chain is selling CBDs within the next year, it is still a hypothetical situation until the regulations unfold.
“We don’t want to risk any legal ramifications,” she said. “We’re exploring, talking with suppliers and making plan-o-grams for our stores. But we won’t act until we know that we can, legally.”
Although there is no age restriction for CBD yet, many retailers plan to display the product behind the counter like tobacco products. This is exactly how Kum & Go will approach the category, Butler said.
“We’ll have it behind the counter in a display and have educational materials, similar to buying Sudafed at a drugstore,” she said.
Nik Modi, managing director for RBC Capital Markets, New York, compared today’s CBD hype to the early stages of e-cigarettes: people are talking, they’re excited, but they don’t know how to approach it.
The lesson retailers can learn from this comparison is that research is critical, he said. Such research includes diving into the manufacturer’s history, what their products are and if they’re well-capitalized.
“Everyone wants to chase the trend, but there’s no guidance and infrastructure,” he said. “I’d urge everyone to take your time about how you approach the category.”
Gillette concurred, also suggesting retailers question their CBD suppliers on where their products are manufactured, their general production process, and, most importantly, on lab results. Confirming that CBD products don’t contain more than 0.3% THC—the legal limit per product, according to the Farm Bill—goes a long way, she said.
“There are labs that are certified to test CBD, and you’ll want to call and verify those test results,” she said. “Even if you’re unknowingly selling CBD oil that contains more than 0.3% THC, you can be arrested.”
Despite the murky waters, suppliers can still help retailers make CBD distribution a seamless process. Such support includes offering as many educational tools as possible, including pamphlets and brochures, and ensuring their products contain absolutely zero THC, said Floyd Landis, founder of Floyd’s of Leadville, Leadville, Colo.
“Some companies, even if they don’t say it, are selling hemp-derived products with more THC than considered safe,” he said. “The safest thing we can do is remove THC entirely and educate consumers. It’s an unnecessary risk to have any levels of THC at all in these products.”
CBD has been touted as a budding product and surging category for retailers. But is that what it really is? Modi argues that retailers shouldn’t think of CBD as a product or a category, but as an ingredient—and one that will emerge in nearly every area of the store, he said.
“CBD is like nicotine and caffeine: It has functional benefits and will be placed in many products in your stores,” he said. “That’s how this category is going to evolve. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking this is its own category—it’s an ingredient that will arrive in every category.”
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.
Want breaking news at your fingertips?
Get today’s need-to-know convenience industry intelligence. Sign up to receive texts from CSP on news and insights that matter to your brand.
The latest from CSP, sent straight to your inbox.
CVS Stores Start Carrying CBD? [All Need to Know]
This article may contain links to some of our affiliate partners. These are brands we trust and brands we feel represent the highest quality standards. When clicking links, we may earn commissions to help support our site. Learn more by reading our full disclaimer.
CVS Health Corporation is one of the world’s largest retail pharmacies and health care companies with over $180 billion in annual revenue. It was only a matter of time before the corporate giant got involved in CBD, and it now stocks CBD topicals in at least eight of its American stores.
Jumping on the CBD Bandwagon
Soon after CVS’ announcement, one of its main rivals, Walgreens, also stated its intention to sell CBD products in its stores. This is a sure sign that CBD has entered the mainstream, just a few years after it was dismissed as nothing more than a fad and a novelty item.
Like Walgreens, CVS is somewhat cautious in its initial foray into the CBD sphere. It has over 10,000 locations in the U.S. alone, but in 2019 the company announced CBD would only be available from a relatively small percentage of CVS stores in the following eight states: Illinois, Colorado, Alabama, California, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and Indiana. It is also important to note that neither edibles nor CBD-derived supplements will be available. However, customers can purchase lotions, roll-ons, sprays, salves, and creams.
In many ways, it is not a surprise that major pharmacies are getting involved in CBD. At the end of 2018, the Farm Bill made it legal for Americans to grow and sell industrial hemp. Since CBD can be extracted from hemp, it is easier than ever for suppliers to get hold of premium-grade cannabidiol. The CBD market itself could be worth as much as $22 billion within three years. CVS has joined other renowned health and beauty companies such as DSW, Free People, Authentic Brands Group, Neiman Marcus, and Sephora, all of whom have become involved in CBD.
What CBD Brands Are CVS Selling?
Elevate CBD is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the news as the firm’s CBD-infused pain relief cream will be sold in over 1,500 CVS stores. The brand specializes in full-spectrum, lab-tested, and supposedly, ethically-sourced hemp products.
The cream is full-spectrum, which means it contains several cannabinoids, including CBD, but crucially, it contains less than 0.3% THC, the maximum legal limit. Each 4oz tub contains 140mg of cannabinoids and is available for $39.99. It is designed for pain relief, and proponents say it does an excellent job of treating their aching muscles and joint pain. Buyers can choose between two varieties: cooling and warming cream.
Medterrais another big winner, as CVS announced that it would be selling the California-based brand’s topical cooling cream. The cooling cream that will be available in CVS is a combination of CBD and other certified organic ingredients. The brand claims that its cream provides users with a cooling feeling, making it ideal for sore joints and muscles.
There are well over 20 ingredients in the cream, including sunflower seed oil, cetyl alcohol, grapefruit seed extract, xanthan gum, and Arnica flower oil. According to Medterra, the cream contains 99.6% pure CBD. Choose between the 250mg tub for $49.95 or the 750mg tub for $89.95.
Social is another CBD-based company that has significantly benefited from CVS’s decision to sell CBD topical creams. SocialCBD Muscle Rub 3-ounce cream ($29.99) is designed to provide fast and effective relief for muscle aches and pains.
The product contains a proprietary herbal blend, which is infused with menthol and CBD. Each 3-ounce tube of Social CBD muscle rub cream contains at least 250mg of hemp-derived CBD.
CVS Pharmacy explicitly states on its website that state restrictions apply to Select’s CBD Muscle Rub cream. It is essential to bear this in mind before purchasing this product.
Sagely Naturals also have several CBD-based products which are available to purchase in select CVS stores and via their website. The CBD-based company was founded in 2015 by Kerrigan Behrens and Kaley Nichol. According to Forbes magazine, Sagely Naturals is the largest female-founded company in the CBD market today.
Working in collaboration with chemists and naturopaths, Sagely Naturals began formulating broad-spectrum CBD-based products coupled with potent botanicals. All of Sagely Naturals’ products are derived from organically-grown, non-GMO hemp and contain less than 0.0025% THC. Each product is then quadruple-tested by a third-party laboratory to ensure the highest quality and purity standard.
One of Sagely Naturals products available to purchase from CVS is their Relief & Recovery CBD Cream. It is available in a 2fl ounce ($19.99) and a 4fl ounce ($35.99) bottle. Sagely Naturals Relief & Recovery CBD Cream contains the company’s proprietary blend of plant-based ingredients and broad-spectrum CBD. This topical cream is designed to provide cooling relief and deep nourishment to the skin. The 2fl ounce bottle contains 25mg CBD, and the 4fl ounce contains 50mg CBD.
CVS selling CBD products is a great example of how popular the industry has become in a few short years.
CVS also sells Sagely Naturals Calm & Centered Cream. According to Sagely Naturals, this topical cream is designed to facilitate a sense of wakeful calm. The formula also contains Sagely Naturals proprietary blend of plant-based ingredients and broad-spectrum CBD. Plus, Sagely Naturals Calm & Centred Cream is packed with essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and chamomile. It is available in a 4fl ounce bottle and contains 50mg CBD. Sagely Naturals Calm & Centered Cream 4fl ounce is priced at $35.99.
Also available via select CVS stores and the CVS website is Sagely Naturals Relief & Recovery CBD Spray. It comes in a conveniently sized 2-ounce bottle and is priced at $27.99. The 2-ounce bottle contains 50mg CBD and is infused with essential oils such as menthol, peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus. According to Sagely Naturals, their Relief & Recovery CBD Spray is a quick-drying pick-me-up for easy use on the go.
Overall, CVS carrying CBD products is yet another boon for an industry that appears to have great momentum. Having colossal corporations such as Walgreens and CVS throwing their weight behind CBD has helped the industry move forward.
CVS is a brand that takes pride in its status as a health care heavyweight. In 2014, it was the first national pharmacy to stop selling tobacco products. And its latest venture could provide the seal of approval that the industry desperately needs. Of course, the impact that CVS and other industry giants may have on smaller independent CBD brands is yet to be seen. For the few companies that actually make it into CVS stores, the business will, of course, be great. For some of the others, perhaps not so much.