A bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives is pushing the Trump administration to provide a legal pathway for food products infused with the marijuana compound cannabidiol (CBD).
In a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 15, 2019, the lawmakers wrote that a series of recent actions by state and local officials in New York City, Maine, and Ohio to crack down on the sale of CBD foods and beverages have “spurred a tremendous amount of confusion among product manufacturers, hemp farmers, and consumers of these products.”
FDA officials have so far refused to say whether it was involved in the local crackdowns in any way.
“In light of the aforementioned state enforcement actions and the resulting confusion, we are calling on FDA to swiftly provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD,” the 12 lawmakers, led by Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
Following the federal legalization of hemp and products derived from it in late 2018 through the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA released a lengthy statement saying that it reserves the right to regulate cannabis-based products. The agency would take action against businesses making unsupported claims about CBD's therapeutic potential, it said, even if the products in question were derived from legal hemp crops, and it warned against introducing such products into interstate commerce.
Gottlieb did say in the statement, however, that “pathways remain available for the FDA to consider whether there are circumstances in which certain cannabis-derived compounds might be permitted in a food or dietary supplement.”
He also said that FDA would hold a public meeting on the issue to “gather additional input relevant to the lawful pathways by which products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed, and how we can make these legal pathways more predictable and efficient.”
Now, the group of House members is urging him to hurry it up, and they want answers to the following questions by Feb. 21, 2019:
- When will FDA provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD? For example, it would seem the GRAS Notification Program would be one such pathway.
- Has FDA advised states — such as New York, Maine or Ohio —- that have recently taken enforcement actions against food products with CBD?
- When will FDA hold a public hearing on the regulation of products containing CBD?
Hemp production is a growing market for farmers and rural communities across the country. We’re urging Commissioner @ScottGottliebMD to provide lawful pathways for hemp-derived #CBD products. #mepolitics
Read our letter ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/SSEdlNlFfG
— Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) February 19, 2019
“States are looking for immediate leadership from the Federal Government to eliminate confusion around this issue,” the House lawmakers wrote. “Furthermore, numerous states are pursuing legislative efforts that would allow for the intrastate commerce of food products with CBD, potentially leading to a patchwork of state regulations.”
Lawmakers joining Pingree on the letter include Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, and Peter Welch of Vermont, among others.
Separately, lawmakers have sent a number of other letters to federal agencies recently about aspects of the Farm Bill's hemp legalization provisions.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who together championed hemp legalization to passage, wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mid-February 2019 urging that it move “expeditiously” to implement regulations on the newly legal crop.
Wyden and his fellow Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley also sent a separate letter to the FDA last month criticizing “outdated regulations,” that “limit producers from taking full advantage of the industrial hemp market” such as the development of hemp-derived CBD products.