Hidden camera investigation reveals sales pitch in Metro Detroit stores selling CBD products

Lack of regulation creates concerns for customers

A Help Me Hank hidden camera investigation is uncovering what Metro Detroit residents need to know about CBD oils, lotions and drops, which are becoming some of the hottest selling new products on the market.

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A Help Me Hank hidden camera investigation is uncovering what Metro Detroit residents need to know about CBD oils, lotions and drops, which are becoming some of the hottest selling new products on the market.

Some people claim CBD, or Cannabidiol, can cure anything, but others disagree. The lack of regulation can create concerns for consumers.

The CBD products on shelves include oils, lotions, pills, cigarettes and even CBD water. Local 4 wanted to know more about the sales pitch in stores.

With hidden cameras rolling, a Help Me Hank producer went inside some of the stores selling the products.

"Do you guys have CBD products?" our producer asked.

"Right here," a clerk at the first store said.

"Hi, I'm looking for, like, CBD stuff," our producer said at a second store.

"Oh, right here," a worker said.

In each store, salespeople surprised our producer, all saying they use CBD products.

"I don't know much about these things," our producer said.

"It works," the clerk at the first store said.

"It does? Really?" our producer asked.

"I have really, really bad arthritis in both my knees, to the point where I would cry in pain," the clerk said. "I'll put it on, 15 to 30 minutes, pain-free, good for the rest of the day."

"Do you think it's really working, or is it a placebo effect?" our producer asked.

"It works," the clerk said. "You know, it helps with anxiety levels, get healthy sleep levels."

"Do you think it's safe?" our producer asked at the second store.

"Yeah," the worker said. "I mean, I use it."

"What do you use?" our producer asked. "Or none of these products?"

"I use external and internal," the worker said.

In two retail stores, we asked about a common misconception. Do these products contain marijuana?

"Does it have weed?" our producer asked.

"It's hemp," the worker at the second store said. "It does not have any THC in it. You don't need to worry about a buzz or anything euphoric like THC. We would not be able to sell it if it had THC in it."

She was knowledgable about the difference between CBD and THC. The clerk at the first store almost had the right information but not the right name or number.

"There's no TC, or less than .03," the clerk said.

A product isn't treated as marijuana if the THC content is below .3%. The Farm Bill Act passed in 2018 on the national level paved the way for states to start a framework for regulations. That made it legal for customers to purchase CBD.

But consumers can't expect to walk in and buy CBD products at all the shops that are popping up. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has a map that shows where dispensaries are located.

Those have more than the .3% level of THC, so when Local 4 went in, we were told a medical marijuana card was needed. But now, retailers such as Kroger and health stores are selling products and no card is needed.

"We've been following the CBD market for several years now and watched it unfold from this very niche market to a much larger, booming industry," said Jamie Schau, a researcher with Brightfield Medical Group.

Schau said that currently, the products aren't really being regulated, so consumers don't know what's really in them. But the main players in the industry that have been around for years are the ones to trust, she said.

"Many of which are doing their own compliance measures," Schau said. "They're making sure to go through third-party testing to make sure there's no lead or harmful chemicals in their products."

The top players are Charlotte's Web Hemp, CV Sciences, Green Roads and Medterra.

Schau said anyone buying a product should Google it and make sure the website has legitimate research,

The products leading in sales -- oils that are used with a dropper under the tongue, followed by vape products and topicals -- are expected to increase on the shelves with more regulation to come.

About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.