Gov. Kay Ivey finally signed the Senate Bill 225 on June 10, allowing pharmacies to sell CBD based products containing no more than 0.3% THC. The Pharmacy Board said that it is the responsibility of the pharmacy to ensure by trustworthy and scientifically reliable testing that the CBD based products sold will meet the criteria.
Until this bill was signed, pharmacies in Alabama were prohibited from selling the products, even if you could access CBD based products from regular gas stations or quick marts. The uneven distribution and unregulated framework for CBD products can cause a significant damage to the consumer market, however if controlled in a precise manner, CBD can be a potent medicinal drug that can improve people’s lives.
CBD or cannabidiol is a compound found in large quantities in the hemp plant, a cannabis genus plant. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound which doesn’t alter the state of mind, unlike THC, tetrahydro cannabinoid which has psychoactive effects and is responsible for the “high” that people feel while smoking pot.
CBD is an anti-inflammatory drug which helps treat pain, inflammation, swelling, acute pains, chronic ache, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, insomnia and even reduces the severity of life-threatening diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. People have started relying on CBD and using it as an alternative to regular prescription drugs.
Many people have reported significant improvement in their health after taking CBD only for a few weeks or even days in some cases. According to Susan Alverson, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Alabama Board of Pharmacy, the prohibition on sales of CBD products in pharmacies was due to the former classification of CBD as a substance drug.
CBD was still registered as a Schedule 1 controlled drug in Alabama even after the federal government reclassified CBD and CBD oil as a safe drug for consumer market. Pharmacies report to the Board of Pharmacy, and the board could not allow pharmacists to sell CBD since the state law had not changed and still considered it as a prohibited drug.
The U.S. House passed the Farm Bill in December 2018, allowing hemp derived CBD with a maximum concentration of 0.3% THC, thereby removing it from the list of Controlled Substances Act. Technically, the bill changed the legal status of hemp derived CBD from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity which can be manufactured, processed, sold and consumed by consumers. The bill meant that people could now cultivate, buy and sell CBD legally.
In its earlier guidance, the Alabama Board of Pharmacy made it clear that until the Alabama Department of Public Health removed hemp derived CBD based products from the list of Schedule 1 Controlled Substances, Alabama pharmacies and pharmacists are not allowed to manufacture or sell any form of CBD.
When asked about why people could buy CBD at a gas station and not at a pharmacy, the board promptly replied that while the Board of Pharmacy abides only those who have a permit with the board, and do not regulate entities that work outside its permit. They also added that though they can regulate what are sold at pharmacies, they can not change the status of a controlled substance directly.
Alverson said that the growing use of CBDs continue to raise concerns amongst law enforcement officials and other stakeholders. There are ample of questions surrounding CBD that need to be answered, especially related to the components contained within the oil and the long term effects of it. While there are many claims about its healing ability, there is no real documentation for most of the claims.
The ambiguity raises many questions; is it safe for people to use on a regular basis? Does it have any long term side effects? Is it alright if people use CBD and have no benefit? Or is it OK if people use the CBD oil as an alternative to prescription drug and have no impact with the CBD?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a public meeting on May 31 to discuss about CBD and its effects. The agency allows only one prescription drug which is used to treat severe, rare forms of epilepsy. Dr. Amy Abernathy, prinicipal deputy commissioner of the FDA said that they want consumers to be aware of what they are getting into by taking CBD and that there is only limited information available about CBD, including its effects on the body. Among many questions, the FDA is yet to decide on the safe levels of daily CBD consumption and its possible side effects, if any.