The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace on Wednesday, and the document outlines studies the agency has performed on the contents and quality of cannabis-derived products that it has tested over the past six years.
The report, which is responsive to a mandate attached to congressional appropriations legislation last year, shows significant inconsistencies between cannabinoids concentrations that are listed on labels and what the products actually contain. At the same time, it found negligible evidence that dangerous metals and minerals are added to these products.
Reform advocates have emphasized the need for FDA to develop regulations to ensure quality control in the market. The agency is in the process of creating those rules, but in the meantime it is generally allowing CBD to be sold while prioritizing enforcement action against companies that make particularly outlandish claims about the medical benefits of their products.
“FDA recognizes the significant public interest in CBD products,” the agency wrote. “However, there are many questions about the characteristics of currently marketed CBD products because the Agency lacks significant information on what CBD-containing products are on the market and there are little data available on those products themselves.”
“FDA believes that understanding the characteristics of marketed CBD products is critical to making informed decisions about how best to protect public health in the current marketplace,” the report states.
While the agency has previously conducted sampling studies for CBD, a spending bill that provided funds for FDA requires it to perform another, especially since hemp and its derivatives were legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation stipulated that FDA had 180 days to “perform a sampling study of the current CBD marketplace to determine the extent to which products are mislabeled or adulterated.”
“Together, this information will provide the Agency with a better understanding of product characteristics in the current CBD marketplace and will help protect and promote public health,” the report said.
FDA described the three phases of CBD testing it has overseen since 2014.
During the first period, from 2014 to 2018, it looked at a sample of 78 cannabis products marketed to humans and pets. They found that 67 of them (86 percent) contained CBD. Of the 23 products FDA analyzed in 2014, only eight (35 percent) had CBD concentrations that were consistent with their labeling.
In 2019, the agency tested 34 additional CBD products for a wide range of potentially dangerous materials such as arsenic and lead. They determined that the “levels found in these 34 products did not raise significant public health concerns.”
Among 31 products that were tested for cannabinoids, 21 had labels that specified a CBD concentration. Only seven of them (33 percent) ultimately contained CBD within 20 percent of what was noted on the label.
For 2020, the agency said, “Given the extensive data gaps regarding the current CBD marketplace, the results from previous product testing, and in response to the congressional directive…FDA is undertaking a more extensive CBD product sampling effort.”
That effort involved a short-term plan to 147 products for cannabinoids, 138 of which contained CBD.
“Of the 102 products that indicated a specific amount of CBD, 18 products (18 percent) contained less than 80 percent of the amount of CBD indicated, 46 products (45 percent) contained CBD within 20 percent of the amount indicated, and 38 products (37 percent) contained more than 120 percent of the amount of CBD indicated,” the report states. Only one of 133 samples had potentially hazardous materials, however.
Looking ahead, the agency has long-term testing plans that will involve using “a sampling methodology to create a representative, random sample of the current CBD product marketplace.”
“The Agency is purchasing data on brands, product categories, and distribution channels for CBD products,” it said. “FDA is also in the process of developing its own comprehensive list of brands operating in the CBD market space by assembling data from targeted internet searches and analytics. FDA intends to leverage both data sets to randomly sample products across brands, product categories, and distribution channels, while favoring products with a higher market share.”
The sampling is expected to cover cannabis tinctures, oils, extracts, capsules, powders, waters and other beverages, food items, cosmetics, personal lubricants, tampons, vape cartridges and products sold for pets.
Interestingly, FDA also revealed in the report that it is working with the nation’s only federally authorized marijuana cultivation facility at the University of Mississippi to develop techniques to test for hemp and its derivatives in cosmetics.
The advocacy group U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in an email blast that “there’s not much news” in FDA’s report.
“Citing previous testing data and some more recent but limited random sampling, the FDA revealed what we already knew: While more work needs to be done to ensure CBD products consistently meet label claims, the majority of products do not contain unsafe contaminant levels, specifically heavy metals,” it said. “As an industry that holds itself to the highest standards, we would like to rid the marketplace of all improperly labeled products and unsafe products.”
“It’s high time for the FDA to regulate CBD as a dietary supplement and food additive,” the industry group said. “The agency’s current public stance not only impairs hemp farmers and small businesses; an unregulated marketplace poses real health and safety concerns.”
The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), for its part, said that the FDA data “further affirms the need for federal regulatory clarity.”
“Allowing bad actors to continue to put products on the market, unchecked, is a threat to consumer safety everywhere,” Betsy Booren, CBA’s senior vice president for regulatory and technical affairs, said.
Today's findings are even more reason Congress must provide funding and resources to @US_FDA so it can create the regulatory framework consumers of #CBD products deserve. https://t.co/v6T1l8LeDQ pic.twitter.com/6gn4HlFWNO
— Consumer Brands (@consumerbrands) July 8, 2020
As FDA continues to conducts these tests and develop regulations for CBD to be marketed as food items or dietary supplements, it continues to issue warnings to cannabis businesses in certain cases—such as instances in which companies claimed CBD could treat or cure coronavirus—and provide public notices about recalls. It provided an update on its CBD enforcement guidance to guidance in March.
The agency also recently submitted guidance on marijuana and CBD research to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is currently reviewing the proposal.
Read FDA’s report on CBD sampling below:
Photo by Kimzy Nanney.
Virginia Has Sealed 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges Since Legalization Took Effect This Summer
“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached.”
By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury
Virginia has sealed records documenting more than 64,000 misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges since the state legalized the drug in July.
The figure came out Thursday during a meeting of the legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.
Officials said the records were scrubbed from the state’s criminal record database, which is used by employers like school boards, state agencies and local governments to screen employees.
The state had already sealed 333,000 records detailing charges of simple possession last year after the state reduced the offense to a civil infraction on par with a traffic offense, said Shawn G. Talmadge, the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Lawmakers directed the state to expand that effort when they voted to broadly legalize recreational use of marijuana earlier this year.
The legislature also agreed to a broader expungement reform that will automatically seal other misdemeanor charges, including underage possession of alcohol, use of a fake ID, petit larceny, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Talmadge said those charges will remain in the system until the state finishes updating the software it uses to track criminal records.
“As of right now, the process is proceeding,” he said.
The Virginia Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight is meeting now. You can find the agenda and links to livestream and to provide public comment at https://t.co/f1wsPn7SV7
— Jennifer McClellan (@JennMcClellanVA) October 14, 2021
Members of the oversight commission also heard from two advocates who urged them to move fast to address people currently imprisoned for marijuana offenses—a category of people the legalization legislation passed this year did not address.
Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, and Gracie Burger, with the Last Prisoner Project, said Department of Corrections data suggests there are currently 10 people being held solely on serious marijuana charges.
They said it remains unknown how many more are being held because of marijuana related probation violations.
“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached,” Burger said.
DEA Proposes Dramatic Increase In Marijuana And Psychedelic Production In 2022, Calling For 6,300 Percent More MDMA Alone
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing a dramatic increase in the legal production of marijuana and psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.
In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, the agency said there’s been a “significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” and it wants authorized manufacturers to meet that growing demand.
DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.
It wants to double the amount of marijuana extracts, psilocybin and psilocyn, quadruple mescaline and quintuple DMT. What especially stands out in the notice is MDMA. The agency is proposing an enormous 6,300 percent boost in the production of that drug—from just 50 grams in 2021 to 3,200 grams in the coming year—as research into its therapeutic potential continues to expand.
LSD would see a 1,150 percent increase, up to 500 grams of the potent psychedelic.
Marijuana itself would get a 60 percent boost under DEA’s proposal, up to 3.2 million grams in 2022 from the 2 million grams last year.
Here’s a visualization of the proposed quota increase from 2021 to 2022 for marijuana and cannabis extracts:
For all other THC, psilocybin, psilocyn and MDMA:
And for other psychedelic substances like LSD, mescaline and DMT:
DEA said in the Federal Register notice that it has been receiving and approving additional applications to “grow, synthesize, extract, and manufacture dosage forms containing specific schedule I hallucinogenic substances for clinical trial purposes” to achieve these ambitious quotas.
“DEA supports regulated research with schedule I controlled substances, as evidenced by increases proposed for 2022 as compared with aggregate production quotas for these substances in 2021,” the agency said, adding that it working “diligently” to process and approve marijuana manufacturers applications in particular, as there’s currently only one farm at the University of Mississippi that’s permitted to cultivate the plant for research.
“Based on the increase in research and clinical trial applications, DEA has proposed increases in 3,4- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, Dimethyltryptamine, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Marihuana, Marihuana Extract, Mescaline, Psilocybin, Psilocyn, and All Other Tetrahydrocannabinols to support manufacturing activities related to the increased level of research and clinical trials with these schedule I controlled substances.”
Here are the exact numbers for the proposed 2021 and 2022 quotas:
|All other tetrahydrocannabinol||1,000||2,000|
A 30-day public comment period will be open after the notice is formally published on Monday.
It’s difficult to overstate just how significant the proposed 2022 increases are, but it’s certainly true that scientific and public interest in marijuana and psychedelics has rapidly increased, with early clinical trials signaling that such substances show significant therapeutic potential.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that she was encouraged by DEA’s previous proposed increase in drug production quota. She also said that studies demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics could be leading more people to experiment with substances like psilocybin.
Advocates and experts remain frustrated that these plants and fungi remain in the strictest federal drug category in the first place, especially considering the existing research that shows their medical value for certain conditions.
A federal appeals court in August dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. However, one judge did say in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.
Separately, the Washington State attorney general’s office and lawyers representing cancer patients recently urged a federal appeals panel to push for a DEA policy change to allow people in end-of-life care to access psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.
Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Legalizing Safe Drug Consumption Sites, But Activists Are Undeterred
The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has rejected a request to hear a case on the legality of establishing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.
The justices announced on Tuesday that they decided against taking up the case raised by the nonprofit Safehouse, despite the pleas of attorneys general from 10 states and D.C. who recently filed amici briefs urging the court’s involvement.
Representatives from 14 cities and counties, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia, which is at the center of the current case, also filed briefs in support of the case in recent days.
Safehouse was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a legal challenge from the Trump administration. It filed a petition with the nation’s highest court in August to hear the case.
But while the Supreme Court declined to take action—and the Biden administration passed up its voluntary opportunity to weigh in at this stage, which may well have influenced the justices’ decision—activists say the battle will continue at a lower federal court level, where the administration will have to file briefs revealing its position on the issue.
Disappointed but not surprised U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear our case. We’re pursuing our claims in federal court. As that litigation proceeds, Biden administration will have to take a position, which it avoided by waiving its right to respond to our Supreme Court petition.
— Safehouse (@SafehousePhilly) October 13, 2021
“We were disappointed that the government chose not to respond to our petition,” Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein told Filter. “They said, ‘We’re going to waive our right to respond,’ [and] the Supreme Court declined to review our case. Ordinarily that sounds like the end of the road—but in our case we are still pursuing our claims in a different venue.”
That venue will be the the federal district court in Philadelphia, where activists plan to submit multiple arguments related to religious freedom and interstate commerce protections. The Biden administration will be compelled to file a response in that court by November 5.
“If they don’t respond, they lose,” Goldfein said.
A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials—including one who is President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts—previously filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up Safehouse’s safe injection case.
Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus brief, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 top prosecutors in 2019 so they could learn about the successful implementation of the country’s drug decriminalization law.
If the Supreme Court were to have taken the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could have emboldened advocates and lawmakers across the country to pursue the harm reduction policy.
The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize the harm reduction centers. It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.
Massachusetts lawmakers advanced similar legislation last year, but it was not ultimately enacted.
A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.