CBD: Where the Molecule Stands at the Moment
Find out what's new with CBD and its future.
By now, most consumers in the US have heard about CBD whether they consume cannabis regularly or not. After all, ever since CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta told the story of the dramatically preventative effects a CBD-rich tincture had on the Colorado toddler Charlotte Figi’s seizures in 2013, the cannabinoid has fueled a market that saw $14.9 billion spent on CBD products in the US alone in 2020, according to cannabis data analytics consultancy New Frontier Data. However, Gupta did follow up his documentary with an expose which highlighted a continuing of questions around CBD. This, alongside the intervention of the Food & Drug Administration in 2019, slowed the industry’s momentum — but only by so much. Studies have continued to be published (with 290 currently planned, recruiting or active according to clinicaltrials.gov), legislation continues to be passed and new markets for CBD are being developed.
PUMPING THE BRAKES
The passage of the 2018 Farm Act, at first, promised extraordinary growth for the CBD industry, but this exuberance was soon tempered by the movement of the FDA, which was given jurisdiction over CBD’s usage. Then-commissioner Scott Gottlieb insisted that since CBD was an active ingredient in a prescription drug, it could not be marketed as a dietary supplement and it could not be used in food or beverages. While Gottlieb did announce the foundation of an internal working group to research potential pathways for CBD’s inclusion in such products, such a project involving a novel ingredient could take years. At the Consumer Healthcare Products Association conference in September, acting FDA commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock says the regulations “puts [the FDA] in a stalemate position.” By extension, it also keeps the industry in limbo, and larger retailers like Walmart from embracing CBD outright.
Further illustrating Dr. Woodcock’s point, the FDA recently rejected applications by both Irwin Naturals and Charlotte’s Web to classify their CBD-containing products as dietary supplements. In the meantime, the FDA continues to send out cease-and-desist letters to the occasional CBD manufacturer making untoward health claims; their latest round went out in March to five companies selling products for both humans and animals. Legislation has been introduced in both the US House and Senate which would re-classify CBD as a dietary supplement. The US Hemp Roundtable has created a website as well as the #regulateCBDnow campaign to get the bill passed. Industry members, however, acknowledge that the passage of legislation would not solve the stalemate overnight, as the FDA would still be called in for technical assistance on the bill’s implementation, and they would still possess enforcement authority. “I could see this drawing out until the next version of the Farm Bill, and after the 2022 election cycle,” Validcare CEO Patrick McCarthy told Hemp Industry Daily.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS
What this means is that a uniform set of regulations everyone can abide by will likely continue to elude both consumers and business owners for some time. While licensed hemp can be legally grown in America, only the FDA-approved prescription drug Epidiolex is nationally legal. In Iowa, for instance, legal CBD can only be purchased in three dispensaries licensed by the state’s Office of Medical Cannabidiol. However, California is about to open up its market to CBD and hemp extracts for the first time since 2018, when it declared it would follow the FDC’s guidance on CBD-containing products. The state’s newly-passed AB 45, which Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign, will allow CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement, as well as for its use in food and beverages. Manufacturers and marketers of these products would need to abide by rules, such as lab testing standards, similar to those of the medical and adult-use cannabis industries.
Because of the size of California’s market, CBD manufacturers predict a gold rush. However, some farmers groups, such as the California Hemp Farmers Guild and the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, might sue because of the lag time involved with developing tax rates and the bill’s vagaries surrounding testing standards for smokable hemp flower. However, smokable hemp may only be of so much interest to California consumers. Hemp flower is often used as a smokable medium for delta-8, and AB 45 bans delta-8 products from being sold outside of licensed dispensaries — suggesting it won’t be any more accessible than regular cannabis.
Of course, some people, both in and outside of America, aren’t waiting around for the authorities to catch up. The Journal of Women’s Health polled 1000 women and found that 80% would use cannabis for their health conditions. In Hong Kong. Another poll conducted by the International Journal of Spine Surgery found that 25% of respondents were using or had used CBD to control their pain. A recent piece in South China Morning Post revealed that CBD is having a moment, with COVID-stressed citizens turning to CBD-infused beer, coffees and cosmetics for calm. And earlier this year, Martha Stewart launched a new line of CBD treats for dogs partnership with Canopy Growth. So clearly, when there’s a will, there’s a way and the public’s interest in continuing to find uses for CBD is not likely to wane any time soon.
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