Keith Nunes 2019KANSAS CITY — Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives Dec. 2 may bring much needed regulatory standards to the market for cannabinoids (CBD) derived from hemp. While the Food and Drug Administration’s ongoing, careful review of the safety and efficacy of CBD is to be applauded, the proliferation of products containing the ingredient in some states may be putting consumers at risk. The prospect of a national regulatory framework for the development and use of products containing CBD is a welcome development.

The CBD Product Safety and Standardization Act would allow the FDA to regulate CBD as it does all other food ingredients and subject products containing CBD to enforceable standards. The proposed legislation also directs the agency to establish CBD content limits and packaging and labeling requirements and determine in which categories of food CBD is appropriate to use.

The goal of the legislation is to eliminate a regulatory loophole that emerged after the 2018 farm bill removed CBD from the Controlled Substances Act. Since the legislation did not make changes to existing FDA regulatory policy, it opened the door for the manufacturing and marketing of products containing the ingredient at the state level. The loophole has helped make products containing CBD widely available, but with no consistent regulatory standards.

“Demand for CBD products has surged, but Food and Drug Administration regulations do not reflect this new reality,” said Representative Morgan Griffith of Virginia, a cosponsor of the bill. “As a result, adulterated or unsafe products are available that threaten consumer health, and businesses lack clarity. The CBD Product Safety and Standardization Act would require the FDA to address the issue and ensure more certainty in the CBD marketplace.”

Similar bipartisan legislation was introduced in the US Senate this past May. The bill, the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act, was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. The legislation is currently under review in the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The Consumer Brands Association (CBA) welcomed the introduction of the legislation in the House. Betsy Booren, PhD, senior vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the CBA, noted that 74% of consumers incorrectly believe CBD is federally regulated.

“The CBD Product Safety and Standardization Act is a welcome step toward giving consumers consistency and promoting safety that goes across state lines,” she said.

The development of regulatory standards governing CBD is not as straightforward as some would like. There are a host of issues the FDA is grappling with, including how the ingredient may interact with medications consumers take, what may happen to those who consume the ingredient for a sustained period, how different methods of consumption may affect intake, and levels of consumption that may trigger risks associated with CBD. All these issues must be carefully researched to ensure the long-term safety of CBD.

Consumers continually say they are interested in improving their overall health and wellness. Federal oversight may give consumers confidence in a category that has engendered both enthusiasm and skepticism. If CBD were found to benefit consumer health, it would become another potent ingredient for food and beverage manufacturers to meet that demand.