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United States Congress Putting Pressure on the FDA to Regulate Cannabis


Last year’s federal farm bill was a landmark achievement that legalized cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp, setting in motion the first Food and Drug Administration hearing on “products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.” While the FDA’s hearing wasn’t officially limited to the regulation of CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid took center stage at the hearing and in the media’s coverage due to the U.S. farm bill’s passage and the market share that CBD already enjoyed, even in an uncertain and confusing regulatory environment. As CBD and CBD-infused products become more mainstream and popular across the United States and the world, there will only be more pressure placed on the FDA to implement rules. If the FDA fails to act, legislators may have to step in.

The Hill reported:

“In Congress, some are itchy [for action],” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the industry advocacy group U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

Miller said some lawmakers have been privately circulating potential legislation, but he doesn’t expect any formal push from Congress until at least later this fall.


Lawmakers and industry sources said they don’t necessarily have an issue with FDA’s insistence on gathering evidence, but they also don’t want the agency to use safety as an excuse to slow-walk regulations.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, one of the federal congressional leaders on cannabis policy, wrote a letter to the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urging the regulators to issue a formal enforcement policy by August 1, 2019.  Wyden also requested regulators allow the manufacturing and sale of products CBD derived from hemp under the existing food and dietary supplement regulations. In a press release, Sen. Wyden stated:

“I fully embrace FDA’s commitment to the promotion and protection of public health and understand that, with respect to hemp-derived CBD, the agency will be examining a number of health and safety considerations. Given these and other factors, I certainly acknowledge the challenges that FDA faces in expeditiously creating a legal pathway for hemp-derived CBD in foods and dietary supplements, especially since the agency has never used these rulemaking authorities before,”Wyden wrote.

“However, I, and many in the CBD industry, find FDA’s indication that it may take three to five years to issue a final regulation authorizing the lawful use of hemp-derived CBD in foods and dietary supplements fully unacceptable. The regulatory confusion and uncertainty surrounding CBD cannot continue for that length of time.”

Federal hemp and cannabis legislation has moved at a terribly slow pace for decades, as the failure of prohibition has been obvious to rational people, but it is heartening to see momentum in Congress ramp up. Along with CBD regulations, lawmakers are moving forward with important pieces of legislation, from protecting all cannabis companies operating legally under state law from federal persecution to fully legalizing access to banking services to reforming the 280e tax code that unfairly harms cannabis businesses. And each step forward gets us closer to ending federal prohibition.

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CBD, FDA, hemp, Ron Wyden, U.S. Hemp Roundtable