It wasn’t exactly fake news, but it wasn’t the whole story either.
On Monday, July 9, KGW-TV ran a story about how CBD-infused products are gaining popularity.
CBD is one of many compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. It does not change the state of mind of the person who uses it, although it does appear to produce significant changes in the body.
The KGW story came across more as breathless cheerleading than a news report.
It began with a folksy item about a brewer infusing his beer with CBD for flavor.
“But it also has some other benefits,” said reporter, Keely Chalmers. “Many health experts believe CBD helps with things like pain, anxiety, seizures, even some cancers.”
That might be why business at a Portland CBD Hemp Store, where you can get CBD-infused candy, dog treats, oils and more, has been so good, she continued.
The story also featured a massage therapist who began offering CBD-infused massages and “within weeks the calls from satisfied customers started pouring in.”
Chalmers even threw in a segment featuring Dr. Nephi Stella, Co Director
of the University of Washington – Center for Cannabis Research, who she said asserts that CBD “has proven therapeutic qualities and is safe.”
“Cannabinoids have a very good safety profile,” the researcher said in an interview. ‘It all depends on dosage and how much you take and how often.”
Sounds good, huh?
But there’s an unmentioned problem. There are still very little long-term safety data available and there is “no scientific evidence” that most CBD products can be effectively used to treat or cure serious diseases, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The only product the FDA has approved, based on well-controlled clinical trials, is a purified form of CBD to treat seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy in patients two years of age and older.
Not only is there no scientific evidence that other CBD products are safe or effective, but the FDA has taken recent actions against companies distributing unapproved CBD products marketed in a variety of formulations, such as oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, and topical lotions and creams.
“…we remain concerned about the proliferation and illegal marketing of unapproved CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on June 25, 2018. “The promotion and use of these unapproved products may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”
The KGW report also failed to disclose that CBD products are being produced in a no man’s land in terms of regulation. “CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality,” said Marcel Bonn-Miller at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It really is the Wild West. Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people.”
And even where people have used CBD in some form and claimed it had a positive effect, that’s hardly scientific proof of efficacy. “There’s no control, so it’s basically how do you know if we’re dealing with the true effect of the drug or just simply a placebo effect because somebody thinks they’ve been given a drug that will be beneficial?” said Timothy Welty, chair of the department of clinical sciences at Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in Des Moines, Iowa.
KGW’s story wasn’t false information designed to masquerade as news, the definition the Columbia Journalism Review says is favored by most white papers and news reports about the problem. Instead, as in so many other media failures, the error was one of omission.
And that undermines trust in the media.