Vitamin Shoppe began selling CBD extract soft gels earlier this week in-store and online, contrary to FDA guidelines, raising questions of ensuing enforcement action.

Earlier this week, nutritional supplement retail chain Vitamin Shoppe announced that the company has started to offer cannabidiol (“CBD”) soft gels to eligible customers. Limited to 14 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, Vitamin Shoppe began selling Irwin Naturals’ CBD soft gels earlier this week, planning the inclusion of additional CBD extract products from Garden of Life by the end of April.1 Competing chains Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS have recently started to carry topical CBD products,however, Vitamin Shoppe is currently the sole nation-wide supplement company offering ingestible CBD.

While Vitamin Shoppe stores have been selling hemp extract essential oils since March 2019, company executives describe the decision to sell CBD as a simple matter meeting its customers’ demands. “The customer relationship is the cornerstone of The Vitamin Shoppe’s reinvention, and our customers have told us loud and clear they want CBD,” company CEO Sharon Leite explained in an emailed statement.3

Facing competition from online retailers like Amazon, Vitamin Shoppe’s interest in providing CBD products is one of several strategies planned to further distinguish the company from competitors. Hoping to present more customized health services for customers, the company also looks to offer free nutrition consultations for frequent shoppers. “Our goal at The Vitamin Shoppe is to be first to market with innovative, high-quality products, as well as provide our customers the education, guidance, and services essential to helping them live their best life, however they define it,” Leite stated. “These new product offerings are another example towards us fulfilling that promise.”4

Vitamin Shoppe’s hope to address consumer demand presents more than a small regulatory challenge, as existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) rules do not permit the sale of CBD in consumables intended for human or animal use. Despite the legalization of hemp and hemp-derived products following the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 in December, existing FDA guidelines prohibit the addition of CBD into consumable products. State enforcement has varied; authorities in California and New York have banned the sale of ingestible CBD products, however, Colorado and other states have policies in place that permit said products.

Announcing the agency’s planned hearing on the regulation of CBD next month, outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb expressed concern over the new market, stating “While the availability of CBD products in particular has increased dramatically in recent years, open questions remain regarding the safety considerations raised by their widespread use.”5

Unsubstantiated medical claims and health guarantees by companies selling CBD have also been especially troubling to the FDA. Announcing enforcement measures against four CBD businesses, Gottlieb stated the dangers of companies using, “unfounded, egregious claims about their products’ ability to limit, treat, or cure cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, autoimmune diseases, opioid use disorder, and other serious diseases, without sufficient evidence and the legally required FDA approval.”6

According to CNBC, Vitamin Shoppe has yet to directly address their new CBD supplements as a possible violation of FDA rules. “We have more than 40 years of experience in the supplements industry, and we know our customers need a reliable place they can purchase products they desire and trust, including CBD hemp extract,” Leite said.7 Though the fact that they are a national brick and mortar chain clearly engaged in interstate commerce certainly gives the FDA plenty of incentive to crack down on their actions.

Vitamin Shoppe’s CBD products are available in stores and online for customers residing in Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, Washington DC, Wisconsin, or Puerto Rico.


  1. Herrington, A.J. “Vitamin Shoppe Becomes Latest Major Chain to Start Selling CBD.” High Times. April 17, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  2. LaVito, Angelica. “Rite Aid Will Start Selling CBD Products in 2 States, Stop Selling E-cigarettes in All Stores.” CNBC. April 11, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  3. Herrington, A.J. “Vitamin Shoppe Becomes Latest Major Chain to Start Selling CBD.”
  4. LaVito, Angelica. “Vitamin Shoppe to Sell Edible CBD Supplements as Consumers Clamor for Cannabis Compound.” CNBC. April 17, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  5. LaVito, Angelica. “Vitamin Shoppe to Sell Edible CBD Supplements as Consumers Clamor for Cannabis Compound.”
  6. Herrington, A.J. “Vitamin Shoppe Becomes Latest Major Chain to Start Selling CBD.”
  7. LaVito, Angelica. “Vitamin Shoppe to Sell Edible CBD Supplements as Consumers Clamor for Cannabis Compound.”


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