When your explanation of your explanation needs explanation, you know things are getting murky.
That’s what happened when the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released a statement of frequently asked questions about how food processors and retailers could use industrially sourced cannabidiol (CBD). The oil derived from the cannabis plant has been hailed as a natural medical miracle by some, but an untested ingestible by others, especially food industry regulators.
Though the statement was released in an attempt to clarify CBD’s status in California, the document cites multiple, seemingly overlapping state and federal agencies that have a say in regulating the hemp, cannabis, and CBD industries.
Titled “FAQ – Industrial Hemp and Cannabidiol (CBD) in Food Products,” the document states that:
“…although California currently allows the manufacturing and sales of cannabis products (including edibles), the use of industrial hemp as the source of CBD to be added to food products is prohibited. Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive, or dietary supplement.
Also according to the FAQ, seeds and oil from industrial hemp are allowed in food as long as there is no claim of health benefits. That would seem to put all questions to rest, but regulators have specific definitions that relate to cannabis products.
Under state law, the definition of food includes pet food, yet according to the document, it doesn’t include products containing cannabis edibles – which are considered a distinct category.
Alex Traverso, assistant chief of communications for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, confirmed via email that the FAQ statement doesn’t impact edibles containing both THC and CBD at licensed marijuana retailers, but it does impact CBD-only edibles at licensed retailers and health food stores selling CBD or hemp in food products.
“CBD and CBD oil, whether sourced from industrial hemp or from cannabis, cannot be added to regular foods or beverages. Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, CBD and CBD oil are prohibited as food additives. California adopts FDA regulations, so CBD cannot be added to food and/or drinks in California. This is not a new decision but a reiteration of existing law,” according to an email from the CDPH official.
Further, CBD and CBD oil are allowed only in edible cannabis products produced according to the California Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulations and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). The CDPH inspects wholesale food manufacturers, processors, and distributors, and will enforce these rules when there are violations of the state’s Health and Safety Code. Local retail food facilities are inspected by local environmental health agencies and enforcement is up to each agency, according to the department statement.
The US Hemp Roundtable responded to the FAQ with a July 19, 2018 letter addressed to CDPH Director Dr. Karen L. Smith.
“The FAQ document makes inaccurate statements about the status of industrial hemp-derived CBD under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Further, the safety profile of industrial hemp-derived CBD is well-established,” the letter said.
California Hemp Association Executive Director Wayne Richman also wrote a response to Smith on behalf of the association.
“There are so many good things that come off of industrial hemp,” Richman told Marijuana.com. “All of the good that this plant does with very little water usage is just an unbelievable gift to California farmers.”
He added that not all of hemp’s end uses relate to CBD, including products that can potentially be applied to the auto industry and even lithography. Richman said he would like to see an expansion of hemp as an agricultural product in the state in cooperation with the cannabis industry.
Hemp extract company Bluebird Botanicals was involved with drafting the US Hemp Roundtable response to the CDPH.
“Bluebird Botanicals and our CEO, Brandon Beatty, have been at the forefront in opposing bad regulations and rebuking incorrect interpretations of the federal and state hemp laws,” said Lex Pelger, science director at Bluebird Botanicals in Colorado. “On the supply side, we’re proud to say that all of our hemp is grown right here in southern Colorado. We work closely with our licensed farmers and extractors to make sure we always stay on the cutting edge of quality.”
California Cannabis Manufacturers Association President Kenny Morrison said CBD is both beneficial and poses no threats to public health.
“I think it’s a ludicrous rule,” he said. “CBD is clearly safe, CBD is clearly effective, and that’s that.”