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Opinion: Bif Naked's unlicensed CBD brand may protect against COVID-19

Naked's company made unfounded health claims early in the pandemic
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Canadian musician Bif Naked is co-owner of a CBD brand. Photo: Bif Naked / Facebook

Canadian musician and unlicensed-CBD-brand owner Bif Naked may have reason to celebrate this week as a study out of the University of Waterloo has shown promise that CBD might work to "prime cells against COVID."

Naked is co-owner of Mona Lisa Healing, which was selling contraband CBD to Canadians as recently as 2020. The company is not approved as a licensed producer by Health Canada and operates on the fringes, now shipping to clients internationally.

In the early days of the pandemic, the business released marketing materials containing unfounded health claims that their product was able to "help your body defend against COVID-19 Coronavirus."

In a March 2020 email, Naked told Vancouver Is Awesome that she didn't believe they needed to adhere to Health Canada's packaging and production regulations for their product which was produced in Canada and shipped out of Toronto. Naked explained: "Because we are an international distributor, our packaging is consistent with international markets."

Mona Lisa Healing stopped distributing their product in Canada after reporting on Vancouver Is Awesome revealed that doing so contravened the Cannabis Act.

When asked in 2020 if they were taking advantage of the public's fears during a global health crisis, Naked told V.I.A. she did not believe making an unfounded claim that a product could protect people from COVID-19 would be considered profiteering.

Naked noted in mid-March 2020 that it was typical for other "health and wellness companies" such as gyms, vitamin companies, and others who consider themselves "in the health industry" to indicate in marketing materials issued in early spring it was "flu season." The then-new virus was also top of mind for such companies, added Naked. "Yes, absolutely we are all mentioning 'Covid-19' as it is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, as the world (including Mona Lisa subscribers) [are] seeking wellness and to strengthen immune support."

Study released on CBD and COVID-19

A study released by the University of Waterloo on Jan. 12, 2022 could be good news for licensed CBD brands and ones who are selling illegally alike. It shows promise for CBD as a preventative measure against COVID-19, indicating that therapeutic doses could possibly aid in "increasing the readiness of cells to respond to viral infection such as SARS-CoV-2."

U of W postdoctoral fellow Maria Fernandes performed the study. She's quoted in a press release as saying that the results suggest “CBD at the right dose could help cells be in a better state of readiness to respond to a virus, but it doesn’t cause a response unless there is a need.”

The researchers found that "synthetic cannabidiol (CBD) augments the anti-viral response of cells to three key proteins produced by the SARS-CoV-2 genome – which was, until now, an unknown effect."

The synthetic CBD used in the study differs from the "hemp-based organic" CBD Mona Lisa Healing claims to use in their products, and a pre-peer-reviewed version has been published on BioRxiv.org. It is currently under review in the journal Life Sciences.

Health Canada has not approved, nor does it recommend, CBD as a way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Naked declined to comment on the study and her CBD brand at this time.