A CBD Explosion
The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law last December. It legalized the cultivation and distribution of industrial hemp and products derived from it. This includes cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is super trendy right now. It’s little wonder. This modest cannabinoid is thought to promote sleep, curb anxiety, reduce inflammation, and even help with gut disorders and neurological conditions. One of its most important properties, CBD helps reduce the number and severity of seizures, and so can treat rare, childhood epileptic conditions, maladies which are oftentimes treatment-resistant.
Of course, most of the evidence we have about the health benefits of CBD are anecdotal. But data is piling up. CBD products, even before they were legal, proliferated in markets across the country. The cure-all cannabinoid can now be found as a supplement, in tinctures, vape cartridges, and as an additive to cocktails, salad dressings, coffee drinks, seltzers, juices, cookies, and so much more.
It has gotten so popular that the two largest pharmacy retailers in the US, CVS and Walgreens, have announced they’ll soon be carrying CBD products. Since legally, selling it as a food additive can be tricky, both pharmacy chains will focus on CBD-infused creams, lotions, salves, patches, sprays, and other such products. Now, the FDA is looking to regulate the CBD market. To figure out what the best way to approach this is, the agency has set up a public hearing, to be held on May 31, according to an announcement in the Federal Register.
Where the FDA Stands on CBD
Exactly how to regulate the CBD market is what’s at issue. Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was grilled recently by Congress about it, which allegedly prompted the announced public hearing. The point of the hearing is to collect data on CBD’s safety and any feedback on how the agency should regulate its manufacture, marketing, and labeling. Commissioner Gottlieb has said several times that while the Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, since CBD is technically a drug it’s within the FDA’s purview to regulate it as such.
Even with an outpouring of feedback to sift through, regulating CBD won’t be easy. Its designation as a treatment for epilepsy complicates its regulation as a food additive. Gottlieb has suggested that dosage may predict regulation. In this view, in products with lower concentrations of CBD, it would be classified as a food additive. In those with higher concentrations of CBD, it would be classified as a drug. The FDA listed a number of concerns and questions it wants to address. These include the proper dosage for pregnant women, the maximum daily intake allowed by law, and more.
At the Congressional hearing, Gottlieb warned that even with such regulations worked out, it’ll likely take the FDA two to three years to finalize and implement them. Congress could speed up the process by legislating proper CBD regulations. But that’s unlikely. For now, those who want to weigh in can submit a public comment to the FDA up until July 2. The agency said it’ll soon announce how to register for the hearing online.
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To hear Commissioner Gottlieb’s thoughts on regulating CBD in a hearing before Congress, click here: