The Pros and (Many) Cons of CBD Subscription Boxes

The advantages and disadvantages of CBD subscription boxes

As with conventional subscription boxes, the main appeal of a CBD-infused one is convenience. Image Credit: By Africa Studio on shutterstock.

In recent years, subscription boxes — like BarkBox, Stitch Fix, and Dollar Shave Club — have become an increasingly popular way for consumers to try new products (or stay stocked up on their old favorites). The trend is growing at a breakneck pace: as Fast Company reported in 2018, over 3,500 subscription box services are now in operation, with nearly half of them having launched since 2017.

While there’s no data on how many of those subscription boxes offer CBD products, a quick internet search will reveal that they’ve quickly become as ubiquitous as those offering clothes, makeup, or pet toys. Services like CBD Health Box and Discovery Club have flourished in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill, which drastically loosened restrictions on hemp-derived CBD and allowed it to be shipped around the country (though the U.S. Postal Service still seems a bit fuzzy on what’s actually permitted).

As with conventional subscription boxes, the main appeal of a CBD-infused one is convenience. With a few strategic clicks, you can have an array of edibles, combustibles, tinctures, or topicals shipped to your doorstep each month. Some of these services, such as Gramsly, will select the products for you. Others, like Hemplebox, allow you to build your box from scratch by selecting from a wide range of available products. And a handful of services, like the aforementioned CBD Health Box, will send you a survey after you sign up, and pack your box based on the answers you submit.

The variety of the boxes’ contents is matched by their price tags. Depending on the number of products included, their sizes, and their contents, the cost of a CBD subscription box can vary dramatically. CBD Health Box, for example, costs just over $60 for each box of 3-5 products. On the higher end of the price spectrum, Lucky Box’s pack of around eight products will run you almost $120 a month. 

CBD Subscription Boxes Offer Clarity, Convenience — But Also Some Issues

Shopping for CBD can be daunting, due to the huge array of available products, the confusing terminology, and the general lack of clarity on which products are best suited for treating a specific issue. For many consumers, this can lead to paralysis by analysis — earlier this year, Mashable surveyed 2,000 consumers about CBD and found that only 39 percent of them knew what “CBD” or “CBD-infused” meant, and that 81 percent hadn’t tried any CBD product at all.

CBD subscription boxes aim to take the guesswork out of this process. As Lucky Box Club co-founder, Eliza Maroney, told MG Magazine, “[We] decided to become our subscribers’ CBD personal shoppers. With the Wellness Box, you can expect a dose of effective healing and relief with an assortment of our favorite CBD products.”

Expert guidance — and the accessible CBD-related information they can provide — is another selling point of CBD subscription boxes. Gramsly, for example, states that every product in their box is “vetted by our team before it’s hand-packed and sent to your door.” Hemplebox makes a similar claim, saying that, “[We’ve] done the hard work, sifting through the ever-growing number of CBD brands so that you can zone straight in on high quality and authentic products.”

However, it’s not quite clear what that actually means — most subscription services don’t go into much detail about their vetting process for products. CBD Health Box is one of the few outliers here, promising that, “When possible, we include products which were American-grown, third-party lab tested, organic, and which utilize full spectrum CBD products.” Still, that phrase “when possible” is doing a lot of heavy lifting, and most subscription box services don’t provide easily accessible answers to questions about individual products on their websites — meaning that customers must wait until the packages show up to find out about dosing, cannabinoid contents, and other vital information.

Another downside to CBD subscription boxes is their availability. While some, like Hemplebox, can be shipped anywhere in the United States (though you might run into issues if you’re ordering from certain states that are cracking down on CBD products of all types), that’s not always the case. Some companies, like Lucky Box, also sell THC-rich products, and as a result shipping is limited to the company’s home state.

Finally, there’s also the matter of product size. Choosing the right CBD dosage is a highly individualized process, and most experts agree that a certain amount of trial and error is necessary to find what works for you. With some boxes, such as Gramsly, the products are large enough to allow for such experimentation (as their website states, “You can’t experience the benefits with just a sample.”). However, these are the exception to the rule, since many boxes (especially the cheaper ones) include single-serving products or ones that could be described generously as “fun-size.” 

Still, CBD subscription boxes can be a relatively low-risk way to try a range of new products to see which ones work for you. In some cases, as with Green Girl CBD’s boxes, you can even get a refund if you find a particular package isn’t to your liking. And if it saves you a trip to the mall, pharmacy, or dispensary, that’s not a bad deal, either.

Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers wellness, culture, and music. Alexa’s work has appeared in Leafly, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, Thrillist, and in Audiofemme, where she is a regular music columnist.

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