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Sellers await legal clarity for CBD infused products as the FDA holds a public meeting


CBD products have been quite a buzzword in the U.S. market lately, especially after the federal law passed the Farm bill in December 2018 which removed hemp derived cannabinoid from the list of Controlled Substances Act. Despite the federal law allowing cannabinoid for medicinal purposes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of cannabinoid in edibles and allows only one drug meant for children to treat epileptic seizures.

U.S. officials are now exploring ways to embed cannabinoid in the food and beverage industry ensuring safety of the consumers. The FDA held a public meeting on May 31 to discuss about the drug in detail. It called for stakeholders, law officials, consumers and retailers to talk about how cannabinoid works, affects the human body and could be safely regulated in the market.

Though the FDA restricts companies from infusing cannabinoid in any of their edible products, many have already launched their CBD infused gummy bears, candy, syrups, oils, drinks, beer, burgers, pizza, pasta and what not. The FDA had even issued warning letters to 3 companies regarding false marketing of their CBD products as a cure to cancer.

Officials also show concern about the impact of CBD legalization on the younger generation. Edible items such as candies and gummy bears attract kids, until CBD is cleared off from the FDA, it still is a harmful drug, proven otherwise. In-depth research and study are being conducted to understand the working of CBD and whether or not could it be incorporated in day to day lives.

Though the public hearing held on Friday is envisioned to bring significant changes in the CBD space, it is not certain when the final word would come out from the agency. No immediate decisions are expected, however, the meeting holds an important place in clarifying regulations around the ingredient.

Peter Matz of the Food Marketing Institute, one of the dozens of speakers who addressed the FDA panel said, “There is mass confusion in the marketplace”.

Other speakers including business leaders, academic researchers and consumer advocates urged that the agency should move quickly, noting that the industry is growing at a rapid pace with little oversight. There are no regulatory policies which bind these companies and retailers at the moment other than the maximum threshold of 0.3% allowed by the federal law.

This is raising concerns about the accuracy of the product labels and people are not realizing how much they may be consuming through various products. Before the hearing began, acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless noted critical questions boiled down to the safety of CBD, such as how much amount is safe to consume on a daily basis, whether the compound is safe for pregnant women and children.

CBD often comes from a marijuana plant known as hemp, other than CBD, the plant also contains other chemicals or compounds such as THC or tetrahydro cannabinoid. THC is known to be a psychoactive component which alters the state of mind and causes hallucinations in users. It is this chemical which is responsible for the “high” that people get while smoking weed.

On the other hand, CBD has anti-inflammatory and non-psychoactive properties which helps reduce inflammation, pain, swelling, anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia and also treats severe ailments such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. It does not produce any mind-altering effects, unlike the THC which causes severe effects.

The FDA still holds its foot strong on the stance regarding CBD not being used in edibles. It is not allowed in foods, drinks and other supplements in any form. But, given the agency’s limited resources, many do not expect the agency to enforce the position unless the products make explicit health claims that could put lives in danger.

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Adding to the confusion, some states like Colorado allow CBD in food and drinks which is misleading people into taking actions that are against the FDA rules. In New York City, where officials have strictly warned that CBD is not allowed in food and drinks, stores and restaurants have continued selling it on their front shelves.

Forming a regulatory framework for CBD products is a necessity at the moment, else anybody could exploit the market and pose threats to the citizens as a whole.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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