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Congressional Committee Calls For Increased Enforcement Against Non-Compliant CBD Products



A key House committee is calling on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “continue and increase” enforcement against CBD companies that make unsanctioned claims about the benefits benefits of cannabidiol as the agency works with Congress to develop a regulatory pathway for the product.

The panel separately noted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’s (VA) efforts to improve education around home loan benefit protections for military veterans who work in state-legal marijuana markets.

Those issues are addressed in new reports attached to annual spending legislation approved by the House Appropriations Committee last week. The bill itself to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), meanwhile, again codifies protections for state hemp programs.

As the 2024 fiscal year appropriations season gets underway, these are some of the first examples of how lawmakers are approaching cannabis policy through that process under Republican control of the House this Congress.

The CBD language in the spending bill report for USDA and FDA says that appropriators are “concerned about the proliferation of foods and dietary supplements marketed in violation of the [federal Food Drug, and Cosmetic Act], including products containing derivatives of the cannabis plant.”

Non-compliant CBD products “pose potential health and safety risks to consumers through misleading, unsubstantiated, and false claims that cannabis and cannabis derivatives can treat serious and life-threatening diseases and conditions, including COVID–19,” the report says.

“The Committee recognizes that FDA intends to work with Congress on creating a regulatory framework that could permit one compound in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), in consumer products,” it continues. “FDA indicated that such a framework could safeguard consumers by providing risk management tools to the agency to manage CBD risks, including labeling requirements, prevention of contaminants, content limits, and other public health protections, such as minimum purchase age, to mitigate the risk of ingestion by children.”

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FDA announced earlier this year that, following an extensive review, it determined that it would not be able to independently develop regulations allowing for the marketing of CBD products as food items or dietary supplements. The agency has faced pressure and criticism over the inaction, but it’s insisted that Congress must step in to facilitate that rulemaking.

Appropriators went on to say that they recognize “FDA’s use of existing authorities to undertake cannabis-related efforts, including research, requests for data, consumer education, issuance of guidance and policy around cannabis-based drug product development, and enforcement against wrongdoers.”

They want the agency to “continue and increase these efforts” given the prevalence of non-compliant CBD products in the marketplace.

“The Committee also expects FDA to take enforcement action against the manufacturers of any cannabis products marketed with unlawful therapeutic claims to preserve the integrity of the drug development and approval processes, which ensures that products, including cannabis-containing products, marketed as drugs have undergone a rigorous scientific evaluation to assure that they are safe, pure, potent, and effective for the diseases and conditions they claim to treat,” the report says. “It is also imperative that FDA continue to exercise its existing authorities to preserve incentives to invest in robust clinical study of cannabis so its therapeutic value can be better understood.”

While last year’s spending bill report also expressed concerns about issues with improperly marketed CBD products, the call to increase enforcement, as well as language around working with Congress on regulations, hasn’t been included before.

In the appropriations bill itself, there’s familiar language prohibiting the use of funds to interfere in the hemp industry.

SEC. 745. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be used—

(1) in contravention of section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (7 U.S.C. 5940), subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, or section 10114 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018; or

(2) to prohibit the transportation, processing, sale, or use of hemp, or seeds of such plant, that is grown or cultivated in accordance with section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 or subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, within or outside the State in which the hemp is grown or cultivated.

Separately, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies bill report includes a section that says appropriators understand that “VA has clarified that nothing in VA statutes or regulations specifically prohibits a veteran whose income is derived from state-legalized cannabis activities from obtaining a certificate of eligibility for VA home loan benefits.”

“The Committee understands that VA is working to improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter,” it adds.

While there’s nothing in statute preventing veterans who work in the marijuana industry from receiving VA home loan benefits, the agency did say last year that some prospective lenders may not want to run the risk of issuing loans to those veterans and then not being paid back due to the instability in the cannabis industry that is caused by ongoing federal prohibition.

Bills and reports on funding for other agencies will be released on a rolling basis as Congress works to finalize appropriations for the 2024 fiscal year.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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