In California, a Push to Allow CBD in Food Resumes

Last year, California lawmakers came close to passing legislation that would have established the largest regulated hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) market in the US. 

Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry spearheaded the push, which sparked lobbying, including by one of the world’s largest cannabis companies, Canopy Growth. Aguiar-Curry negotiated with Governor Gavin Newsom until the final hours of the session, but the effort was ultimately unsuccessful. 

Now, as California’s 2021-2022 session ramps up, Aguiar-Curry has introduced AB 45, which is nearly identical to last year’s AB 228, but with a more explicit reference to pet food, which Aguiar-Curry added in response to feedback from the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. In short, it would allow for “dietary supplement, food, beverage, cosmetic, or pet food” to include “industrial hemp or cannabinoids, extracts, or derivatives from industrial hemp.” It would also direct revenue from a $250 fee imposed on hemp manufacturers toward “an Industrial Hemp Research Program at the University of California.”

The legislation aimed to address sales of unregulated CBD products that “do not meet stringent California consumer protection standards” and make “outrageous” claims about therapeutic benefits, Aguiar-Curry told Cannabis Wire last year.

This session, Aguiar-Curry told Cannabis Wire this week, the legislature appears “better equipped” to handle its workload.

“I think we’re better positioned on the policy because of our extensive negotiations with the Administration and stakeholders,” Aguiar-Curry continued, “and my colleagues are now more aware of the need for new economic activity and the potential risk to public health of having unregulated products all over our state.”

California, and other states, are struggling to reconcile the booming popularity of CBD products with a lack of regulatory guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, defined as cannabis plants with .3% THC or less, and the FDA was tasked with the responsibility of crafting rules for products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids, like CBD.

As Cannabis Wire reported last year, the Food and Drug Administration drafted its long-awaited policy on these products. But it remains with the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval, a final step before publication. In the interim, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission have issued warning letters to some of the most egregious companies, but the enforcement approach remains whack-a-mole.

In October 2019, one month after the California legislation died, New York regulators published comprehensive regulations for CBD products, which could provide California lawmakers with a blueprint this year.

“These regulations are the next step toward regulating the growing hemp industry in New York in a way that protects consumers and helps ensure the industry’s long-term viability,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement at the time. “Establishing the State’s Cannabinoid Hemp Program to regulate production and sale of hemp and hemp extract will help protect both consumers and farmers.”

Aguiar-Curry told Cannabis Wire that she has had “some conversations with folks from New York,” adding that the two states often look to each other when it comes to legislation and regulation.

“It’s an interesting dynamic because we’re working to make hemp CBD products work in complementary fashion with an existing regulatory structure that’s been set up for legal recreational cannabis, whereas New York is doing hemp first without that regulatory structure,” Aguiar-Curry said. 

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