Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of cannabis companies that advertised CBD products as effective in preventing or treating COVID-19 without obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval have become targets of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforcement actions. By way of example, on April 22, 2020, the FTC filed an administrative complaint against Marc Ching, individually and as Whole Leaf Organics, to cease unfair or deceptive practices and false advertisements for products affecting commerce in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Two days later, the FTC petitioned the Unites States District Court, Central District of California, to enter a temporary restraining order and grant a preliminary injunction enjoining Marc Ching and Whole Leaf Organics from disseminating false or unsubstantiated advertisement claims that the CBD products marketed as CBD-EX, CBD-RX, and CBD-Max treat cancer, and the CBD product marketed as “Thrive” prevents or reduces risk associated with COVID-19. In response to the FTC complaint, Marc Ching and Whole Leaf Organics agreed to a preliminary order to cease advertising these claims.
The fact that the FTC filed this lawsuit presents a notable departure from its previous enforcement activity and that of the FDA. This suit demonstrates the FTC’s commitment to protecting Americans from harm caused by products falsely claiming to prevent or treat serious diseases, such as COVID-19. In fact, on April 20, 2020, the FTC commented that “[a]t a time when Americans are looking for any hope and solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re increasingly concerned about the deceptive practices some marketers can, have, and will employ.”
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