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CannaCraft fires back after California cannabis health-claims case settlement

After the dust settled on the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office announcement Thursday of CannaCraft settling a civil case alleging false advertising, the Santa Rosa-based cannabis producer fired back Friday in its own defense of health claims surrounding its Care by Design product line.

“We believe the information we provided was highly credible, valuable and compliant with the complex, rapidly evolving cannabis regulations in place in California at the time,” said CEO Jim Hourigan through the company spokeswoman Kial Long, who added the company feels somewhat targeted.

Care by Design, which the company manages as part of its wellness division, contains cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis element. Company ads claimed it could be therapeutic for many conditions, “including chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, diabetes, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, sleep disorders, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, and neurological ailments.”

Tiffany Devitt, the company’s chief of government and consumer affairs, bills the matter as a “good example of the growing pains the industry has experienced,” she said.

“That said, the rules about cannabis and medical claims are crystal clear today,” Devitt said.

CannaCraft is a licensed cultivator and manufacturer in Sonoma County — but also markets in Alameda, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma and Monterey County, the latter where the case originated.

The Sonoma County firm agreed to pay $250,000, in addition to $50,000 in restitution and investigation costs under the terms.

“When informed of the District Attorneys’ Task Force concerns in 2017, we quickly took action to remove all content in question and put in place more rigorous compliance and control procedures,” Hourigan explained, referring to the California Food, Drug, and Medical Device Task Force, which includes the D.A.s’ offices. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s office negotiated the terms of the settlement as a member.

“Consumer and patient safety remains our top priority and, as we enter an era in which independent scientific research can be conducted in the United States to verify the many benefits of CBD, Care by Design will continue to support such research and disseminate findings in compliance with applicable regulations,” Hourigan continued.

The company posted a “landmark CBD study” this March concluding positive results of the product line’s “commitment to patient safety” through a clinical study.

The complaint alleges that Cannacraft made representations regarding the efficacy of its Care By Design products on its website, cbd.org, “that were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, including that, ‘Cannabidiol can change gene expression and remove beta amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s, from brain cells,’” the district attorney’s office stated.

The Sonoma County D.A.’s office got involved following a consumer complaint from 2017.

“It was brought to the attention of the task force through a consumer. Basically, we observed the advertising this organization was doing,” Sonoma County’s Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said.

Staebell reinforced the notion that once a consumer red flag goes up, the company goes “on the radar of investigative agencies." His department also acknowledged the company “worked cooperatively” to implement change to its advertising and marketing efforts.

In 2018, the District Attorney’s Office sought a stipulated judgment in the amount of $510,281 against CannaCraft in 2018 for environmental law violations related to storage, handling and disposal of hazardous materials in its manufacturing process.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification regarding a statement by the company’s public relations professional, Kial Long, who elaborated on her statement with this comment via email: “What we hope to relay is that when the task force reached out in 2017 we were still operating under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Once we were alerted to the issue we removed all of the copy in question from our website. But without the notice, we would not have known it was an issue because there was no guidance telling us otherwise.”

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