EXCLUSIVE: CBD Censorship Continues Amidst Ongoing Cannabis Legalization Trend

EXCLUSIVE: CBD Censorship Continues Amidst Ongoing Cannabis Legalization Trend

Which word does not belong in this group? Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, CBD or tobacco? 

Well, opinions differ, right?

According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), a non-profit trade organization that monitors and reports content violations on sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco, or SHAFT, the word grouping is fine...that is, all six concepts belong.

CBD Under The SHAFT Umbrella 

In July, the CTIA classified CBD under the SHAFT umbrella, which means that CBD can no longer be promoted via SMS messaging. It is now considered in the same category as hate speech, alcohol and guns. 

These newly-imposed SMS marketing restrictions add to the confusion in the hemp and cannabis industries. While Congress gave the green light to legalize hemp and hemp-derived products back in 2018, the FDA still needs to create clear guidelines or policies regarding hemp-derived CBD.

What’s ironic is that these hemp-related restrictions are being imposed during the ongoing cannabis legalization trend across the U.S.

The solution: Fight against being censored and stamped with a hateful classification.

First Step – Form A Coalition, Launch A Petition 

Stripped of an important marketing tool, more than 20 CBD brands (including Prima, Foria, Recess, Miss Grass, Onda, Quim, Plant People and many more) have joined together in a coalition. Their first task was to launch a petition advocating for:

  1. Passage of the S.1698 Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act, which should create legal and regulatory pathways for the nationwide sale of hemp-derived extract products like CBD supplements, creams and balms.
  2. Urge the FDA to move forward with regulatory actions that would distinguish hemp-derived CBD from cannabis and create a regulatory framework for companies to ensure compliance and protect consumers with clear guidelines and standards.

Benzinga wanted to learn more about the struggles CBD companies have had since CBD was put on the SHAFT list so we reached out to Jessica Assaf, CEO & co-founder of Prima as well as Jon Brandon, CEO & co-founder of Foria.

Prima is a Los Angeles, California-based CBD wellness brand that makes skincare and supplements with hemp CBD and therapeutic botanical ingredients. Foria is also a CBD company with a primary focus on sexual wellness, which according to claims, is the first to launch CBD products specifically designed for that purpose.

SMS – More Than Important Part Of Marketing Strategy 

“SMS was a very important marketing tool and channel for us, as it enabled us to connect 1:1 with our customers. This misclassification also impacts our ability to get into certain retailers, as well as our ability to advertise,” Assaf told Benzinga.

Previously SMS messaging was a key component of Foria’s marketing strategy, helping them reach customers they might not otherwise have found, Brandon added.

“The classification of CBD as SHAFT content is not only inaccurate, but it’s unjust,” they both agreed, noting that CBD censorship by the CTIA is adding to misinformation around CBD and limiting important education.  

Even without the SHAFT regulations, CBD companies are already facing challenges, especially when it comes to reaching and educating consumers, due to a lack of clear regulations by the FDA.

“Restrictive and widely disparate policies have been implemented by independent organizations like CTIA on how Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), 

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Shopify (NYSE: SHOP), TikTokTwilio (NYSE: TWLO) and many more, can market, communicate and sell their hemp-derived CBD products,” Brandon explained. 

These platform restrictions have left CBD brands with few options for marketing and educating people. The confusion around CBD has been present for a long time, mostly, because the compound can also be found in the cannabis plant, which contains THC. But, it is important to note that while THC can get you high, CBD cannot and does not. It is a non-intoxicating compound also found in hemp.

CBD has been “safely used for years as a natural remedy for better sleep, reducing stress, minimizing menstrual cramps, aiding skin health, relieving pain, and for general anti-inflammatory purposes,” Brandon pointed out. 

A Higher Goal – CBD Destigmatization 

The petition is only the beginning for the CBD Brand Coalition,” said Assaf, adding that their goal is to remain as an ongoing coalition and to hold quarterly meetings to talk about the most important matters in the industry.

The major issue is now the new SMS restriction, Assaf said, adding that they will also collaborate on a campaign around Facebook’s limitations. The petition already has more than 13,600 signatures. 

“What’s so special and unique about this initiative is that it is the first time (in a long time, or ever) that a group of some of the biggest CBD and cannabis brands is choosing collaboration over competition, joining forces to spread awareness about an issue that affects us all,” Assaf explained.

Our goal is much bigger than the SMS matter, she added – “we are on a mission to destigmatize CBD and advocate for regulations that legitimize and validate the industry and end the legal ambiguity that restricts what we can do. We all believe wholeheartedly in the therapeutic potential of the cannabis plant and we want to open up more people’s eyes to its role in health and wellbeing.

Photo: Courtesy of Foria




Posted In: CBDCellular Telecommunications and Internet AssociationForiaJessica AssafJon BrandonMiss GrassOndaPlant PeoplePrimaQuimrecessS.H.A.F.T.CannabisNewsMarketsInterview


Meet the biggest cannabis industry players and make deals that will push the industry forward.

Featuring live company presentations, insider panels, and unmatched access to networking, the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is where cannabis executives and entrepreneurs meet.

Join us April 11-12, 2023 at Fontainebleau Miami Beach in sunny Florida.