WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumable products containing hemp-derived CBD would be regulated the same as other food ingredients and dietary supplements under legislation introduced May 19 by a bipartisan group of senators.
While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp as an agricultural commodity, 2 1/2 years later the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue rules on the use of CBD in foods and drinks, leaving them in a regulatory gray area.
The Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act directs the FDA to exempt CBD from certain restrictions that prohibit any new dietary ingredient from entering the marketplace if it was previously studied or approved as a drug.
Sponsors of the bill — Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican — say this will provide much-needed certainty for both hemp farmers and consumers.
"Every day that the FDA drags its feet to update its CBD regulations, hemp farmers are left guessing about how their products will be regulated," Merkley said, "and real economic gains for workers and business owners in Oregon and across the country are left on the table."
Wyden and Merkley, along with fellow Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, were instrumental in removing hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances.
Last year, Kentucky ranked second and Oregon ranked fourth nationwide in the number of outdoor acres registered for growing hemp, at 32,000 and 29,604 respectively. Colorado ranked first with 61,854 acres, and New York ranked third with 29,777 acres, according to Hemp Industry Daily, an industry publication.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a popular non-intoxicating compound in hemp and other cannabis plants, touted as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments such as pain and anxiety.
CBD products are already legally being used and manufactured across the country, Wyden said. Yet because the FDA has failed to update its regulations, farmers and consumers are left with lingering uncertainty.
"It's long past time for the FDA to get with the program, for the sake of American consumers and farmers," Wyden said.
The Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act would do three things, sponsors say. It would give CBD the opportunity to lawfully be used as an ingredient in foods and beverages, require manufacturers to comply with all existing federal regulations and ensure the products are properly labeled.
Courtney Moran, president of the Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association, said the bill is an important step forward, "not only for the cannabinoid sector, but for the grain and fiber sectors investing in infrastructure to open the food, animal feed and supplements markets."
Patrick Atagi, board chairman for the National Industrial Hemp Council, said nearly $15 billion in economic benefits were foregone last year because CBD was not properly regulated.
"If the FDA can't act, Congress should fulfill its oversight role and pass this legislation," Atagi said. "This bill will deliver safe products to the marketplace and create a hemp economy that works for everyone."