There is CBD beer, and CBD coffee, and CBD gummies and soda, skin care, oils and drops. And now the cannabis-derived product is appearing in jelly beans — designed by the man who created Jelly Belly candies.
The product, a mash-up of an “adult” chemical compound — CBD — and a staple of American childhoods, has been so popular that the company that created it, Spectrum Confections, helmed by Jelly Belly inventor David Klein, sold out after a spate of press coverage over the past week.
“Jelly Belly creator debuts cannabis-infused jelly beans: Toasted marshmallow, mango and more,” USA Today wrote.
“Creator of Jelly Belly launches CBD-infused beans,” CBS chimed in.
CBD is a cannabinoid compound, but it’s not the chemical in cannabis that causes a high. Short for cannabidiol, it acts on different parts of your nervous system than does THC, which is the chemical associated with a marijuana high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In short, CBD: no high. THC: potential for high.
The product has grown in popularity in the past few years and has been touted as a potential treatment for anxiety, seizures, insomnia and even cancer. But its medical benefits are still in the early stages of research. One study published last May found that CBD significantly reduced seizures among people who suffer from a rare syndrome called Lennox-Gastaut. Another, in 2017, found that children with Dravet syndrome, another severe form of epilepsy, saw the number of seizures drop from 12.4 to 5.9 over the course of a month.
The Food and Drug Administration responded in June by approving a purified form of the drug for use to treat these conditions.
“But it’s also important to note that this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components,” the FDA noted. “This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use.”
Igor Grant, the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and the director of its Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, said in an interview that other medical uses and benefits of the product have not been as firmly established.
“And from [those studies] it follows that it’s possible that CBD may be useful in other epilepsies, although that is not established,” he said.
He said some studies had also indicated that CBD might have some anti-anxiety properties, noting one in which people giving a public speech were shown to be less anxious after taking it. But he cautioned that the amount of CBD used in these studies dwarfed the amount one would probably find in a candy.
Klein, who did not respond to requests for comment sent to his company, told Cannabis Aficionado, which first reported the story, that he had recently learned of the popularity and benefits of CBD.
“And I said to myself, ‘Is anybody doing a jelly bean with CBD?'” he told the publication. “I could not find any.”
Klein created Jelly Belly in 1976 with an $800 investment and no credit cards, Cannabis Aficionado notes. But he sold his rights four years later – and has recently called the decision a “mistake.” In 2016, he was running Candyman Kitchens, an online outlet that sold various candy products and gimmicks, like candy blood, according to the Chicago Tribune. Klein started a kickstarter to raise $10,000 to market caffeinated jelly beans in coffee flavors like caffe macchiato.
The most recent federal farm bill legalized hemp and some of its products, like CBD, as long as they are produced and derived from a plant that adheres to a rigid list of restrictions, the most important being the lack of a large amount of THC. But CBD generally still is classified as a Schedule I substance. And its status as an FDA-approved drug further complicated things federally, Grant said.
CBD is legal in all but four states, according to CBS. And the product has flourished in this legal gray area, with some estimates putting the CBD market at $190 million last year.
Spectrum Confections sells the CBD jelly beans in 38 flavors such as toasted marshmallow, piña colada and strawberry cheesecake. It also sells sour and sugarless versions. The company’s website admits that CBD doesn’t always have the “best taste.”
Each jelly bean has about 10 mg of CBD in it.
“If people want a small dose, they eat one,” Klein told Cannabis Aficionado. “If they want 20 mg, they can eat two. They can decide what their proper dosage is.”
The marijuana-focused website noted the irony that Jelly Bellys were one of the favorite candies of President Ronald Reagan, who helped continue the “war on drugs,” started by President Richard Nixon, and founded the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1988.
Klein told the website that he doesn’t want to make any unfounded health claims about his new product but is sure that it “will help the world.”