“Hemp prohibition is over!” & more CBD Takeaways from Expo West

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Anaheim, CA—CBD, cannabidiol, hemp, phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, full-spectrum extract, CBD isolate—as WholeFoods previously reported, the debate over which forms to put into products, how to label it, what to say about it (and what not to say) at the retail level grows larger and louder as hemp-based products gain popularity, which seems to be happening at record speed. Just months after the passage of the Farm Bill, CBD is showing up in a wide range of products and retail outlets; the latest, just in time for Easter: A new line of CBD-infused jelly beans, according to a report in USA Today. And at Expo, of the 3,600 exhibiting companies, 120 classified themselves as having CBD ingredients on the official Expo website, while 117 listed all forms of hemp (although there is crossover there).

The CBD market is expected to rake in $16 Billion by 2025, according to a Forbes report on a survey by investment bank Cowen & Co. With estimations like that, it’s no wonder pretty much everyone was clamoring to gain a better understanding of the CBD landscape at Expo West. Here, need-to-know information:

“Hemp prohibition is over!” That statement came from Jonathan Miller, general counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and former Kentucky State Treasurer, speaking at a panel titled Legalized it! Or did we? at the Natural Products Hemp & CBD Summit. His words were met with cheers and applause. That said, it was acknowledged that there is still work to be done. “We now have clear bipartisan support in Congress. There is still a way to go, but we will get there.” He noted that there are resources to help get messages to those in Congress at HempSupporter.com.

Federal vs. State Regulations: Rend Al-Mondhiry of Amin Talati Upadhye helped clarify where things stand: The Farm Bill did legalize at the federal level, but states can have more stringent regulations—and many do. “Even trace amounts of THC,” she said, “could cause a product to be a controlled substance in those states.”

An overview of the “patchwork of state regulations” as presented by Al-Mondhiry:

  • ID, SD and NE consider CBD, including hemp-based CBD, to be illegal under state law
  • CA, ME, NC and TX have adopted the FDA position that hemp-based CBD can’t be a dietary supplement or food ingredient
  • OK, TN and other states allow CBD use only for certain medical conditions
  • NY required hemp-based CBD to be labeled and manufactured as a dietary supplement.
  • WY and KS have a 0% THC requirement
  • IN, UT and OR have labeling and packaging requirements (such as QR codes) that must be considered

Isolates vs. full spectrum: This was discussed at the Natural Products Hemp & CBD Summit, and in the opinion of speaker Sean Murphy of Hemp Business Journal, full spectrum is the way to go. Discussing the “isolate spiking,” Murphy noted, “This is a very short-sighted, bad idea. Pharma is going to lock down isolates. That leaves us to do full-spectrum products. That’s the long-term game.”

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, professor of nutraceutical science for Huntington University of Health Sciences and senior director of product innovation for Twinlab, has given further insight into the pharma concern on WholeFoodsMagazine.com. “Many people are under the false impression that CBD supplements can be lawfully marketed with passage of the [Farm Bill]. That is not correct,” he wrote, pointing to a 2018 statement by outgoing FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, which read: It’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived.

Bruno breaks it down: “The given reason for this was that both CBD and THC are active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs and were the subject of substantial clinical investigations before they were marketed as foods or dietary supplements. The wording of Gottlieb’s statement is interesting. Specifically, it indicated that ‘added CBD’ could not be introduced into a food or dietary supplement. This suggests that CBD isolate cannot be part of a dietary supplement. But what about a plant, such as hemp, that contains naturally occurring phytocannabinoids — including CBD?” In discussing this with some legal experts, Bruno said, “the position is that products containing naturally occurring phytocannabinoids from plant sources such as hemp are not a problem—assuming that the products aren’t positioned as CBD products. CBD isolates, on the other hand, are a clear violation of the FDA’s position.”

Miller, speaking at the Hemp Summit, noted that the FDA public statements are geared mostly toward claims. “That,” he said, “is where the biggest risk comes in.”

Joy Beckerman, regulatory officer and industry liaison of Elixinol, lead a talk titled The Hemp Industry Boom is Here: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape for your Business. In terms of claims, she stressed the importance of not making them. And do your homework. “Vet everything,” she urged. “Keep that critical thinking hat on.” For research, she pointed to pubmed.gov. Search disease + cannabidiol to get information on any published study.

What can retailers say? This was covered in the Barlean’s sponsored talk Selling CBD: Legal and Practical Advice for Retailers. It is clearly a hot topic, as the room was so packed that people were turned away at the door. Speaker Jeffrey Burke, N.D., noted, “It’s a fine tightrope that we walk these, days, especially as we see people who want to make dramatic changes to their lives.” It was stressed that retailers take care not to give more information than is necessary, even when enthusiasm is high, or there’s the risk of making disease claims. That said, it was noted that in some cases there’s not a need to say much at all. Word-of-mouth is so high surrounding CBD that customers are coming into natural products stores already sold thanks to benefits they heard about from their friends and family. To those who do ask questions, Dr. Burke said it’s safe to talk about how people tend to “feel better all the way around.” CBD works to balance the endocannabinoid system (ECS) he explained. So it can be said that when the ECS is balanced, it helps bring the body “back to the blueprint it had when it was healthy.”

For more on the endocannabinoid system, read our coverage on WholeFoodsMagazine.com. And check out this podcast on the topic from Steve Lankford, host of HealthQuestPodcast.com.

Look for more on the topic of hemp-based products, CBD and the ECS in a special feature in the June issue of WholeFoods.

UPDATE: The latest comments from outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on CBD can be found here.

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