Farmers can now grow hemp, but regulatory questions about the cannabis compound remain…
By Lisa L. GillLast updated: December 21, 2018
That’s good news for consumers who use or want to try various products infused with CBD, which is nonpsychoactive. And it could soon mean more products for consumers on retail store shelves. The bill also allows farmers to legally grow industrial hemp.
Although consumers have been able to purchase CBD products in the 47 states where CBD sales are permitted, the federal legality question has loomed. (See map below.)
That’s because the Drug Enforcement Agency previously classified CBD as a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning the federal government contended that it had no known medical value and risked being highly addictive, similar to drugs such as LSD and heroin.
But times have changed, and many in the medical community and in the public say that CBD can be potentially helpful for certain health conditions. Most notably, it has clearly proved to help reduce the number of seizures in people who suffer from two devastating forms of epilepsy. The FDA approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex earlier this year.
Thousands of CBD products can be found online and in retail stores. They include oils and tinctures, food and candy, even coffee and other drinks.
A growing body of preliminary research suggests that CBD has properties that improve health. For example, it appears to act as an anti-inflammatory, which in theory could help with arthritis and some forms of pain. And it has many effects on brain chemistry, which could ease anxiety and depression, among other conditions. Still, some consumers were in limbo, wondering whether the products were legal and whether they were breaking the law when buying them.
The full 2018 Farm Bill is a package of programs estimated to cost $876 billion over 10 years. It touches almost every aspect of farming, food, and food production in the U.S.
“My Hemp Farming Act as included in the Farm Bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight,” Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
The bill allows each state to decide whether it wants to okay the sale of CBD products from hemp within its borders. And by changing how marijuana is defined in the Controlled Substances Act so that it doesn’t include hemp, the bill effectively removes CBD derived from hemp from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. Marijuana and hemp are variations of the Cannabis sativa L. plant.
Legalizing hemp in the U.S. could mean “doubling or tripling domestic cultivation within the next year,” Colleen Keahey, president of the Hemp Industry Association, told CR in an earlier interview.
And by removing CBD hemp from the controlled substances list, Jonathan Miller—legal counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a group of 60 CBD producers—says he believes that companies will be able to legally transport it across state lines.
But Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement that for now the agency still considers interstate commerce of foods and dietary supplements containing CBD to be illegal, “regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived.” That’s because CBD is now approved as an active ingredient in a prescription drug—Epidiolex—and the agency forbids adding such drug ingredients into food or supplements. Gottlieb said the agency plans to hold hearings soon to consider how to regulate CBD in the future.
In the meantime, Miller and many others still expect many more CBD products to enter the market. And that greater variety could be good for people like K. C. Ferrill, 64, of Pendleton, Ind., who says taking CBD has been “life changing,” allowing him to drop the antidepressants that he took for 25 years to quell anxiety and depression.
Ferrill says he was “flabbergasted” when Indiana allowed retailers to sell CBD, and he feels more secure about purchasing it now that it appears the federal government is legalizing it as well.
A Consumer Reports nationally representative survey from last month showed that 15 percent of adult Americans had tried CBD and a majority (83 percent) said it helped, to some degree, the symptoms they were treating.