Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash.

President Trump recently signed the 2018 Farm Bill into the law with customary aplomb, which, among, other things, will legalize the production of hemp, and hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), at a federal level. That means that 2019 could be a big year for CBD, the non-hallucinogenic ingredient in marijuana.

Analysts are projecting huge growth for the CBD market. The Brightfield Group, which does research into cannabis-related industries, reported that the U.S. market for CBD products grew by a staggering 80 percent.

That’s some serious green.

Recently, CBD has had a personal makeover of sorts. As Merril Gilbert said onstage at the 2018 Smart Kitchen Summit: there’s a “cultural shift of acceptance” happening in the cannabis edibles market. Cannabis in general — but especially CBD — is no longer something relegated to stoner culture. Instead, it’s transitioning away from a recreational drug to a wellness ingredient. Consumers of all generations are turning to CBD as a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat everything from insomnia to anxiety to muscle soreness.

But just because hemp is federally legal under the Farm Bill doesn’t mean that CBD will suddenly be popping up on your drugstore shelf. Legally, there’s still some ambiguity: the bill basically removes hemp-derived CBD from the DEA’s list of controlled substances, but it’s still up to states whether or not they’ll allow the sale of the ingredient for recreational purposes.

And when it comes to edibles, our main area of interest, it’s not smooth sailing. The FDA still considers CBD to be an illegal food ingredient, which means that, according to the National Law Review, it is “not allowed in food.”

Until it is, it’s likely that Big Food & Bev companies, like Coca-Cola, won’t touch CBD with a 10-foot pole. However, they’ll definitely be exploring ways to use it so they can start quickly rolling out products as soon as the FDA gives the ingredient its stamp of approval.

But that isn’t stopping a wide variety of CPG companies from incorporating it into their products: from beauty products to dog food to edibles (and drinkables) of all stripes. One of the reasons that CBD (and THC) can incorporate easily into so many products, from wine to chocolate, is because scientists have figured out ways to make it tasteless and water-soluble. Which means edibles no longer have to taste and smell like your dorm roommate’s weed brownies.

Here are just a few products we’ve seen taking advantage of CBD:

As CBD grows in popularity, consumer trust will play a larger and larger role. Even though it’s not hallucinogenic, people will want to know exactly how much they’re consuming and make sure it’s from a reliable source (i.e. hemp, not marijuana). Companies like TraceTrust, which verifies the dosage of cannabis edibles, will become more pivotal.

If you want to know what’s coming up next with CBD, look to Canada. The country legalized marijuana in October of this year, and Big Food brands have been taking advantage and forging new partnerships with cannabis companies. Especially ones making things like beer, which has been struggling with sales lately.

Shortly after Canada legalized weed, Constellation Brands (which makes Modelo and Corona) took a minority stake in Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth. Just last week Budweiser’s parent company announced that it was partnering with cannabis company Tilray to research and develop cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market.

In conclusion, while CBD might not be popping up in your can of Coke in 2019, this next year you’ll definitely see more CBD — and in more places. Down the road, maybe we’ll see CBD meal kits (dessert kits?) or personalized CBD edibles strains. But for the next 365 days, it’s all about CBD establishing itself as a trustworthy, mainstream food and wellness ingredient.

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