One might think that legal and regulatory matters have become simpler for the cannabidiol (CBD) industry with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively gave industrial hemp cultivation a green light federally. To be clear, we are talking about CBD derived from Cannabis sativa L., the non-psychoactive sibling of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) variety (also known as hemp).
It turns out things haven’t been so simple for an already firmly established industry prior to 2018. Sadly, businesses that manufacture, sell, and market CBD products operate in a continually legally murky environment. The source of the murkiness pervading the marketplace can be attributed to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
CBD sellers have made great strides in creating a diverse range of products to suit the needs of a growing customer base — tinctures, creams, raw flower, and so much more. That being said, the FDA has yet to establish a cohesive regulatory stance for all CBD products.
Case in point, hemp-derived CBD is excluded from the umbrella of “foods and dietary supplements” per the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. The restrictions include foods where CBD has been added as a supplement. Thus, CBD manufacturers have to play by a different set of rules than the GNC and Vitamin Shoppes of the world.
There are exceptions to the rule, however. Mainly, products that contain only trace amounts of CBD or THC are excluded from the classification of being a “CBD-derived” product. This only applies to products derived from hemp seed, which contain only trace elements of CBD.
It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that the FDA’s current regulatory stance on CBD is quite vague and lacks any clear parameters. This too applies to how these products are labelled. Hemp CBD companies selling under the guide of dietary supplements have to follow standard FDA labelling practices.
Per the FDA, all dietary supplement labels must include an identity statement (what the product is), net-quantity of content statement, ingredient statement, responsibility statement (where the manufacturer is located), and nutrition statement.
In comparison, CBD-infused food products follow a different set of protocols under FDA guidelines. Mainly, the “principal display label,” which the consumer immediately sees when they look at the product on the shelf, must contain a statement of identity and net quantity statement. Additionally, another set of labels clearly stating the manufacturer information, ingredients list, nutrition labeling, and serving size are required.
Due to the FDA’s unclear stance on CBD as a whole, it is recommended that manufacturers alter the language on their labels and instead refer to their products as “industrial hemp-infused” instead of “CBD.”
To make matters worse, CBD products on the market today lack airtight lab testing requirements, which have created public safety issues. Currently, close to 70% of hemp used in U.S. products is sourced from China where quality control issues have been widely documented. Concerns remain unabated for experts who see an industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
As CBD continues to remain in limbo these issues will only become more present. The FDA will have to take the charge on this at some point — whenever that may be.
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