A line of capsules, powders and oils that claim to promote better sleep, recovery and hydration. Sparkling waters, ice cream, and cookies available in an alluring array of flavours. Even a brand of dog chews that purport to ease one’s furry friend’s hip and joint pains.

Using marketing buzzwords like ‘keto-friendly’, ‘small-batch’ and ‘organic’, these products would not look at all out of place in any gourmet grocery store overseas. Only upon closer inspection would one realise they aren’t everyday household items – these can actually contain cannabis even if they claim to contain only its derivative cannabidiol (CBD). Yes, even the dog chews. 

Cannabis, sometimes known as hemp, is derived from any part of the plant genus Cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis that causes users to feel “high”, and is listed as a Class A controlled drug in Singapore. CBD, a core chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, does not cause the same “high” as THC, and can be found in a limited number of pharmaceutical products. 

The cannabis drug, in a bid to broaden its appeal, has been stealthily shedding its subversive image for one that’s deceptively more ‘wholesome’. This is after all an industry built on addiction, worth billions of dollars globally. 

Even tobacco giants have vested interests – the British American Tobacco has invested in start-ups working on cannabis, CBD and other “wellness” products. In the US, many tobacco companies are also lending support to pro-cannabis groups lobbying for legislation.

Exploiting the use of modern packaging and design, and a deliberate association with the booming wellness industry, marketers of these products also align cannabis-derived products with mental wellbeing. A CBD-laced sparkling water brand, for example, claims to help you relax, while other cannabis products claim to help treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, and more.

The harms behind the ‘highs’