The search results are littered with products branded with marijuana leaves, with names like “Cannavibe.” These products have hundreds, or even thousands of reviews, indicating Amazon has been allowing them to be sold for quite some time.
The Official Policy on CBD at Amazon
Amazon’s restricted products list indicates:
- Listings for products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are prohibited, including but not limited to:
- Full spectrum hemp oil
- Rich hemp oil
- Products that have been identified as containing CBD by LegitScript
Reads pretty clear, right? No CBD oil is allowed to be sold on Amazon.
What’s Really Going on
Reddit’s r/FulfillmentByAmazon subreddit, a popular place for Amazon’s 3rd party sellers to mingle, paints a different picture. The savvy Amazon sellers in this forum note that sellers are sneaking around Amazon’s rules by labeling their products as hemp oil:
For the time being, sellers are getting around this by calling it “hemp oil”.widget_monger (Verified $5 million+ Amazon Seller)
The Washington Post confirmed that products labeled as hemp oil on Amazon’s marketplace were actually CBD oil.
Want your product to appear relevant for search terms like “CBD” in Amazon’s algorithms? Just put “no CBD” in the title, one Amazon seller suggests – and leave out the <wink wink>.
How Does Amazon Restrict Product Categories
Amazon restricts categories like Health & Supplements through a process called “gating.” Sellers that want to list items in these categories are required to jump through a series of hoops including submitting invoices from suppliers.
The problem here is that Amazon is so flooded with 3rd party sellers, and their overseas support staff is stretched so thin, that many sellers refer to this gating process as a joke.
Several services exist that promise to ungate your Amazon seller account for a fee, even if it’s brand new with no sales history:
We talked to a few 3rd party Amazon sellers that said Amazon’s ungating process was so backwards, that even if you have completely legitimate invoices for approved products, it’s sometimes easier to just ungate a seller account through one of these sketchy services. These ungating services could care less what you are actually going to sell, and provide Amazon with dubious invoices to unlock your account.
That’s a lot of “Hemp Oil”!
Once your account is ungated for a category on Amazon, it’s the wild west. At this point, you can create listings for any product you like, and send your inventory in to Amazon’s FBA fulfillment centers.
Most sellers listing “full spectrum hemp oil” (that is clearly marketed to consumers looking for CBD oil) are placing these products in the category of Omega 3-6-9 Oil Nutritional Supplements.
In this highly competitive category, 17 of the top 20 selling products (including #1, 2, and 3) are currently “hemp oil” items:
At this point you might be wondering, “maybe there is just a ton of customer demand for hemp oil?” Nope. Ahrefs, the industry standard tool for measuring search volume, indicates that “cbd oil” is searched over 10 times more frequently than “hemp oil.”
In addition to The Washington Posts’ lab findings that proved that most of the “hemp oils” on Amazon are actually just CBD oil, these products are clearly being marketed as having the benefits associated with CBD oil.
The current best seller in the Omega-3-6-9-Oil Nutritional Supplements category, a “hemp oil drop” sold by Hemp King, makes claims like:
- Improves mood
- Relaxes mind and body
- Boosts brain power
- Gives sedative effect
- Helps to avoid insomnia, anxiety, and other stress
It sure looks to me like these are thinly veiled suggestions marketed toward customers looking for CBD oil. This isn’t a product that has just flown under Amazon’s radar, it has over 4,000 customer reviews!
The Amazon Best Seller ranking of Hemp King’s product is #1,014 in the Health & Household category. According to Jungle Scout’s Sales Estimator, this product is selling several hundred units per day:
Even Amazon’s own seller forums are full of threads with confused parties, wondering how some sellers are getting away with blatantly selling CBD oil:
There are plenty of CBD oil products on Amazon, but 99% of them have the word HEMP on the label. So I know they allow it to be sold.https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/t/cbd/518107/3
Theres over 8000 listing for CBD but I cant post mine. Can someone explain?https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/t/cbd-oil-how-amazon-have-a-restriction-on-it-but-theres-over-8000-listing/493550
Amazon’s rules are being selectively enforced, with experience sellers running laps around their support teams and prohibited products regulations.
The Bottom Line
CBD oil is a booming business. Third-party sellers have figured out how to manipulate Amazon’s policies as well as their search results to cash in on the CBD gold rush.
If you’re shopping for CBD oil online, remember that this is a new industry with plenty of shady players. Think twice before buying from a seller that is vaguely labeling their products and making dubious claims about what they’re selling.