An office of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is encouraging marijuana businesses to submit comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the risks and benefits of cannabis products.
In a noticed published this month, SBA’s Office of Advocacy noted that the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and its derivatives while FDA retains its authority to regulate such products. It also highlighted a public comment period concerning CBD regulations, the deadline for which was extended this week to July 16 due to intense interest among stakeholders.
The office “is aware that many of the businesses that manufacture and distribute cannabis and cannabis-derived products are small,” SBA wrote. “We encourage affected small businesses to submit comments to the FDA about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling and sale of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived products.”
The update comes as the House Small Businesses Committee is increasingly looking into SBA policies related to marijuana. The panel met on Wednesday to discuss opportunities and obstacles for small cannabis businesses under the federal framework of prohibition. During that hearing, members spent a significant amount of time addressing how access to SBA resources such as low-interest loans could benefit entrepreneurs in the space.
While SBA revised its policy earlier this year to clarify that hemp businesses can access such loans, those that deal directly or indirectly with marijuana are ineligible—a point of contention for lawmakers who are pressing the agency to open up benefits to more cannabis firms.
Committee Chair Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) said at the hearing that she was working on legislation that would “open some of the agency’s programs to businesses in areas where the industry is legal.”
SBA’s recent interest in the cannabis industry can also be tracked to a separate congressional hearing that took place last month, when Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) pressed SBA’s acting chief counsel of the Office of Advocacy on whether existing federal regulations are inhibiting the growth of state-legal marijuana markets.
The official said that SBA has “not actually studied the issue of marijuana in that regard, and we have not because the federal government has not yet legalized it.”
But as the new notice urging CBD comments shows, SBA seems to be paying closer attention now.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.