Washington, D.C.—Hemp and CBD are making the news again, this time thanks to potential legal and regulatory movement.
Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner of FDA, gave a speech at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Winter Policy Annual Conference on February 26th, in which he mentioned that NASDA members have interest in the regulatory framework for products derived from cannabis. He reiterated that it remains unlawful to introduce food containing added cannabidiol into interstate commerce, or to market CBD as dietary supplements. “We’re planning to seek broad public input on this pathway,” Dr. Gottlieb said, referring to the FDA’s need to issue a regulation to permit such marketing, “But we know that this process could take time. So, we’re also interested in hearing from stakeholders and talking to Congress on possible alternative approaches; to make sure that we have an appropriately efficient and predictable regulatory framework for regulating CBD products.”
He further noted that CBD isn’t risk-free, that companies can seek approval to market drugs derived from cannabis, and that hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil are all GRAS.
On February 27th, the USDA issued a statement regarding the Hemp Production Program. It’s going to take some time: “It is USDA’s intention to issue regulations in the Fall of 2019 to accommodate the 2020 planting season. The rulemaking will provide for the publishing of a proposed rule, comment period, and a final rule. For the 2019 planting season, the 2018 Farm Bill provides that States, Tribes, and institutions of higher education can continue operating under authorities of the 2014 Farm Bill.”
The statement added that a Farm Bill listening session on industrial hemp production in the form of a webinar will be held on March 13th, 2019. It will be open to the general public. The statement noted that further details will be forthcoming.
Over at Politico, their daily briefing for February 27th wore the headline “Washington has work to do on CBD, hemp.” Politico mentioned that farmers and state officials are waiting for FDA to lay out the regulatory road map for non-psychoactive cannabis production, and hemp lawyers are waiting on the USDA for answers regarding insurance, organic certification, and banking services. The newsletter quoted Dr. Gottlieb: “This is one of the top issues I’m being asked during my visits on Capitol Hill.”
CNBC headed their article on the topic: “The cannabis industry is begging the FDA for some CBD regulations as Gottlieb heads to the Hill.” Their article referred to the states that have forced retailers and food establishments to stop selling products containing CBD, nothing that some of those states have legalized forms of marijuana. CNBC quoted industry executives: “The legal uncertainty is frustrating startups trying to cash in on the surging popularity of CBD and is likely keeping large food and beverage companies on the sidelines.”
Benjamin Witte, who launched a seltzer drink called Recess containing a full-spectrum hemp extract, told CNBC that he “wants this to be something that’s very controlled”—arguably the biggest danger to his business, he told CNBC, is bad actors who “don’t take this seriously.”
CNBC is keeping a lookout for Wednesday at 3 p.m., when Dr. Gottlieb is to testify before the House budget-writing committee, where Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, says she intends to press him on the issue.