FDA Still Moving Slow as Appetites for CBD Grow

By William Sumner, Hemp Content Manager, New Frontier Data

Virginia has joined a growing number of states to allow cannabidiol (CBD) to be incorporated in food products. Late last month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam approved legislation defining industrial hemp extracts such as CBD as allowable food products or ingredients.

While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD at the federal level, states have adopted disparate measures toward regulating the substance. In Kentucky, CBD producers can sell it in oils and tinctures, but not in food products or beverages; conversely, Louisiana lets individuals possess CBD products, yet prevents retailers from selling any.

Such uneven approaches toward CBD have largely arisen due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s ’s slow approaches in regulating the substance. At the heart of the issue is whether to classify CBD as a dietary supplement, or as a pharmaceutical ingredient. To date, the FDA has approved the sale and marketing of but one CBD product (the prescription medication Epidiolex), to treat forms of epileptic seizures.

While the FDA formulates its federal policy, the agency has maintained its stance that it remains illegal either to add CBD to food or market it as a dietary supplement. Impatient with the FDA’s attitude as demand for CBD has expanded, several states have adopted independent stances, including allowing CBD in food products.

In 2018, Colorado became the first state to accept CBD as a food ingredient. Subsequently, 15 other states have passed laws also allowing CBD in food and beverages. Meantime, 27 states have taken steps to explicitly forbid CBD in food products, including otherwise cannabis-friendly states like California.

As the FDA continues to evaluate CBD for safety and tolerance levels, efforts are underway in Congress to bypass the agency. Earlier this year, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) introduced a measure to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and allow hemp-derived cannabinoids (including CBD) in food products.

Despite bipartisan support, the measure remains idle with the House Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research. Given the outbreak of COVID-19 and the general legislative pace during a presidential election year, little movement is expected for the bill. Nevertheless, investors and producers remain bullish toward the future for CBD.

Last month, Molson Coors Beverage Company  (the second-largest U.S. beer manufacturer), announced a joint venture with Quebec-based cannabis company HEXO Corp. to produce a line of CBD-infused beverages in Colorado.

Dubbed Truss CBD USA, the venture will operate independently with its own board of directors, management team, resources, and marketing strategy, while Molson Coors will retain a controlling (57.5%) interest in the enterprise.