This Week in CBD: November 15, 2019

Despite frequent (and accurate) media characterizations of the CBD industry as the new, unregulated “wild west,” it would appear that the American public is not getting the picture.

According to a new survey, conducted by the US-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), many Americans believe that CBD products are being regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Specifically, the survey found that of 2,056 US adults who participated, 62% had some awareness of CBD. Of that number, 76% thought that CBD products were being federally regulated.

In fact, the FDA does not currently regulate the CBD industry. The agency is in the process of developing a regulatory framework for the substance, but no rules have been announced, much to the frustration of CBD stakeholders.

Another interesting finding from the survey: of those respondents who had purchased CBD products, 23% said they did so “because they thought it would intoxicate them or give them a high.”

Clearly, the CBD industry has its work cut out for them when it comes to CBD education.

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Meanwhile, despite pressure from the CBD industry and politicians, a top official for the FDA says that the agency will not be rushed into producing regulations for the CBD industry.

Lowell Schiller, the FDA’s principal associate commissioner for policy, made the statement at a conference for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). While he acknowledged that the FDA was under pressure to act quickly, he insisted that the agency was treating CBD the same as any other substance:

“At FDA, we don’t have one set of rules for cannabis-derived substances and another set of rules for other substances. We don’t approach CBD or other cannabis-derived substances with any sort of animus or imposing new burdens.”

But Schiller says the FDA does not yet have enough data to determine if CBD is safe for long-term use, and rushing the process could create more problems than it would solve. He also said that the agency would be reporting on its progress soon.

The CDC made an announcement late last week regarding the recent spate of vaping illnesses.

“For the first time we have detected a potential toxin of concern: vitamin E acetate,” CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said on a call with reporters last Friday.

While vitamin E has been one of the main suspects in the illnesses for some time, this is the first confirmation we’ve had from the CDC that their investigations have showed the substance to be a major factor in the illnesses.

As part of their study, the CDC looked at lung samples from 29 patients from across 10 different US States. They found vitamin E in all of those samples.

“Vitamin E acetate is enormously sticky,” Jim Pirkle, from the CDC’s environmental health lab, stated. “You can think of it to be just like honey. And so when it goes into the lung, it does hang around.”

Vitamin E is most commonly found in illicit street-bought vapes, but the CDC cautions that there could be small amounts of the substance in any vape. Additionally, there could be other dangerous substances in vapes that haven’t been identified yet.

Presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris expressed concern this week that the CBD industry is reinforcing, rather than remedying, the social and economic inequities produced by the war on drugs.

She pointed out that while CBD entrepreneurs are benefitting from the latest “cash cow,” making claims that CBD products “are all of a sudden going to relieve every problem I have,” a large segment of the population has been locked out (literally) from benefitting from hemp’s new legal status.

“Meanwhile, generations of folks, in particular black and brown men, are felons for life for doing the same thing.” stated Harris, “On its face, this is wrong, unfair. It is a travesty.

The newly published USDA hemp regulations include a ten-year ban from participation in the hemp industry for anyone convicted of a drug felony.

It’s been two weeks since the publication of the USDA’s interim final rule on hemp, and there’s been much discussion about the proposed regulatory framework. During a 60 day public comment period, the USDA is welcoming comments on the rules and so far over 500 people have taken the opportunity to do so.

The US Hemp Roundtable, a hemp advocacy group, has also sent a letter highlighting the most helpful elements of the new rules (like clarifying that interstate transport of hemp is permissible) and the parts that they see as problematic.

Among the “lowlights” of the new rules, the Roundtable points out provisions that penalize farmers that cultivate hemp with more than 0.5% THC and require that “hot” hemp be destroyed (rather than used as “soil amendment” or for research purposes).

They also have concerns about the requirement that testing only be done by DEA-registered labs and within 15 days of harvest (which could cause bottlenecks in the industry).

Comments are being accepted until December 31, at which point the USDA will finalize the rules for hemp.

A new CBD research partnership was announced this week between Florida State University and Fort-Lauderdale-based Green Point Research. The study will look at CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in the hopes of creating an FDA-approved capsule that could replace ibuprofen to treat acute pain.

The actual clinical research will take place in Australia through an FDA “fast track” program, and will take around two years to complete. Green Point will provide the material and funding, FSU will conduct the research and publish the data.

“We’re doing this research to really find out what’s causing these effects in everybody,” says Green Point CEO, David Hasenauer. “We don’t want a runaway cycle with CBD where everyone gets disenchanted because people are pumping out pseudoscience.”

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Assembly approved a bill intended to help the state’s industrial hemp industry. The bill aligns the state’s hemp program with the new requirements published by the US Department of Agriculture and is intended to aid hemp farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers.

The Assembly passed the bill unanimously on Tuesday, and it will now head to Governor Evers’ desk to be signed.