A group of lawmakers sent a letter to the heads of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week, describing the economic potential of the CBD market and encouraging the development of regulations for the compound.
The letter, led by Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), states that the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp and its derivatives such as CBD, “ushered in the potential for a new agricultural industry that will impact textiles, paper, pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, and countless other consumer products.”
Delgado, who among other signees sits on the House Small Business Committee, added that the “legal cannabis industry provides an opportunity for small firms to the lead the way by fueling local economies and creating new jobs.” The panel held a hearing last month to address opportunities and challenges for cannabis businesses under the federal framework of prohibition.
Committee Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who introduced legislation this week that would provide marijuana businesses with access to insurance coverage, as well as Reps. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Jared Golden (D-ME) also signed the letter.
“Farmers around the country are eager to adopt a new exciting crop and are enthusiastically awaiting the establishment of a regulatory framework from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),” the group wrote. “Businesses are ready to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for hemp and hemp-derived products, such as cannabidiol (CBD), yet the FDA’s lack of clarity has caused confusion for farmers, businesses, and consumers.”
Last year Congress legalized hemp & its derivatives such as #CBD.
My @HouseSmallBiz colleagues & I are urging @US_FDA & @HHSgov to quickly provide the clarity that small businesses need to share in this potentially huge market:https://t.co/ltJoNR8Uza
— Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) August 2, 2019
USDA and FDA have faced pressure to develop regulations for the hemp industry since the farm bill’s passage. FDA said last month that it is “expediting” its rulemaking process and will issue a status update on the agency’s progress by early fall. USDA, meanwhile, said that regulations for legal hemp cultivation will be released ahead of the 2020 planting season.
The lawmakers said that “regulatory uncertainty is currently stifling the potential growth of hemp businesses.”
While former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that developing regulations that would allow for CBD to be marketed in food or as dietary supplements could take years without congressional action, the group noted that such products are already being sold “in coffee shops, cocktail bars, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, massage parlors, fitness centers, pet stores, and health stores.”
“This business development has occurred largely outside of any well-defined or strictly enforced regulatory regime,” they wrote. “Regulations are needed to address the production, sale, quality, testing, labeling, and marketing hemp-derived products such as CBD.”
“Businesses making unfounded health claims, not otherwise permitted for food or dietary supplements, should certainly not be making these claims about hemp-derived products, and we appreciate the work that the FDA has done to address these issues in the marketplace. But more work is needed. This retail market is far too large to remain unregulated, and the lack of clear regulation can cause a variety of problems around product quality, safety, production, distribution and sales of CBD.”
While the lawmakers said they appreciate FDA’s diligence in ensuring public safety and enforcing rules against unfounded claims made by CBD companies, the industry cannot wait years for the agency to develop regulations.
“We urge the FDA to take prompt and clear regulatory action to clarify the federal rules around the production, sales, and marketing of CBD to support American farmers and entrepreneurs in this growing market, while at the same time providing assurance to consumers that products are not misleading, mislabeled, and are produced using good manufacturing practices,” they wrote. “Now is the time for the FDA to craft benchmark safety and quality standards for the production of hemp-derived products in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions and matures into a legal marketplace.”
I joined @HouseSmallBiz colleagues in writing to @HHSGov & @US_FDA about economic opportunities relating to growth & production of hemp & CBD. Our letter urges regulatory guidance for CBD products to support farmers & entrepreneurs in this growing market. https://t.co/CoDXpT2hYA pic.twitter.com/6LyQ5qYnoZ
— Congressman Antonio Delgado (@repdelgado) August 2, 2019
The letter states that FDA should release “straightforward enforcement guidance” by September 30 and also “promptly issue an interim final rule, to ensure a regulatory pathway through a permanent final rule, for the use of legally produced CBD as a food additive and a dietary supplement ingredient.”
“Given the current widespread availability of hemp-based products, and the growing consumer demand for CBD, we believe that a clear and efficient regulatory framework is necessary to support American farmers, small businesses, and consumers,” the group wrote. “As increasingly more states legalize marijuana and Federal law recognizes the growth and production of hemp and hemp-derived compounds, it is imperative that agencies provide guidance and reduce barriers for small firms looking to enter this rapidly evolving industry.”
Read the full CBD letter from lawmakers to FDA and HHS below:
Photo by Kimzy Nanney on Unsplash.
Andrew Yang Peddles Marijuana-Themed Presidential Campaign Merchandise
2020 candidate Andrew Yang announced on Saturday that his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is rolling out a line of marijuana-themed merch.
The limited edition products blend Yang’s love of mathematics with his support for cannabis reform. A t-shirt being offered for $30 simply says, “Math. Money. Marijuana.” And a now-sold-out baseball cap says “Math” on the front and displays a cannabis leaf on back. There’s also a bumper sticker that says, “Legalize Marijuana.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Buttigieg Pledges To Decriminalize Possession Of All Drugs In First Term As President
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a comprehensive plan on Friday that calls for “decriminalizing all drug possession” in his first presidential term as a means to combat the opioid epidemic and treat addiction as a public health, rather than criminal justice, issue.
Decriminalization is just one action the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he’d pursue in order to reform the country’s mental health care system and bolster substance abuse treatment. His plan also includes proposals to reduce sentences for drug offenses other than possession, increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone and make it easier to implement syringe exchange programs.
America’s addiction and mental health care crisis has been building for decades—due to decades of neglect by political leaders in Washington. Today, I’m proposing a new approach that tackles this crisis with the urgency and care it deserves. pic.twitter.com/U8F9DXJPC2
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) August 23, 2019
Buttigieg’s “Healing and Belonging in America” plan emphasizes the need to divert people suffering from addiction away from prisons and into treatment. He said he’d accomplish that by expanding diversionary programs and evidence-based training “for drug courts, mental health courts, and other alternatives to incarceration for justice-involved persons.”
The goal of decriminalization and diversion is to reduce “the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75 percent in the first term.”
Our country is in the midst of a mental health and addiction crisis, worsened by decades of stigma and political neglect. I’ll bring a new approach, rooted in commitment and community, to tackle this crisis with the urgency it deserves. https://t.co/spBoh5KH4X
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) August 23, 2019
Under his plan, sentencing reform for drug offenses other than possession would be applied retroactively and coupled with expungements for past convictions. Buttigieg pointed to research demonstrating that “incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths” and instead “actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”
“We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this public health problem.”
“To ensure that people with a mental illness or substance use disorder can heal, we will decriminalize these conditions,” the proposal states. “When someone is undergoing a crisis or is caught using a drug, they should be treated by a health professional rather than punished in a jail cell.”
“All presidential candidates should join Pete Buttigieg in recognizing that the criminalization of people for their drug use is wrong and simply bad policy,” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Action, said in a press release. “Possession of drugs for personal use is the single most arrested offense in the United States, eclipsing arrest rates for any other offense. With overdose numbers skyrocketing and entire communities, disproportionately black or brown, suffering from criminalization, it’s time for policymakers to shift gears. Taking an evidence-based, health-centered approach to address this crisis is not only true leadership – it’s common sense.”
The mayor also made harm reduction policies a key component of his strategy. He said take-home naloxone programs would be expanded to all 50 states by 2024 and that harm reduction services would be expanded “to reduce overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases related to needle sharing.”
The plan would make naloxone “broadly available in order to reverse overdoses” and remove “legislative and regulatory restrictions on the use of federal funds for syringe service programs.”
Buttigieg said the federal government should provide funding for state and local health departments to purchase the medication, make sure that it’s “available in public spaces and workplaces” similar to first aid kids and encourage “co-prescribing of naloxone with opioids, either by individual physicians or direct dispensing by pharmacists.”
Existing federal law makes it difficult to establish syringe exchange programs, in part because federal funds can’t be used to buy needles. The restrictions “hamper state and local responses, both because they limit resources and because they convey a negative message about the value of these programs, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they can prevent transmission of HIV and hepatitis.”
In addition to lifting those barriers, the candidate said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “would also work with states to remove any criminal liability for those participating in” syringe exchange programs.
“Harm reduction programs are a critical part of any effective response to the opioid and injection drug use crisis. They minimize the negative impact of drug use without encouraging it, while reducing other side effects of drug use. In particular, this means access to syringe service programs for people who inject drugs, that link them to treatment, and provides access to sterile syringes. These programs help prevent transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infectious diseases associated with needle sharing, and reduce overdoses by deploying medication such as naloxone that help reverse the effects of opioids.”
One harm reduction policy that didn’t make the cut in Buttigieg’s plan is safe injection sites, where people could use illicit drugs under the supervision of medical professionals who could reverse overdoses and recommend treatment options. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who are also running for the Democratic nomination, both proposed legalizing such facilities as part of criminal justice reform plans they released this month.
“Decades of failed mental health and addiction policy, coupled with mass incarceration that criminalized mental illness and drug use, have left us with a mental health and addiction care system so broken that today there are more people with serious mental illness in prisons than in treatment facilities,” Buttigieg said.
The candidate also made ending incarceration for drug possession—as well as legalizing marijuana—central principles of his previously released criminal justice reform plan, which he released last month.
But while the prior plan did not explicitly describe the move as “decriminalizing” drugs, even though advocates commonly use that word to refer to policies that remove the threat of being imprisoned for possession, the new document does use that terminology—signaling a shift in clarity as Buttigieg continues to develop his campaign messaging.
In other instances, he borrowed language from his criminal justice reform plan, specifically as it concerns how criminalizing drug use can increase rates of overdose, for his mental health proposal.
“Despite equal rates of use, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for using marijuana,” the criminal justice plan states. “Research shows that incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths. In fact, some studies show that incarceration actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”
Buttigieg mentioned that, as with drug offenses, black people are also more likely to die from overdoses. And that’s due to “the current broken system that criminalizes mental illness and addiction” that was “built during the crack epidemic of the 1980s.”
This story was updated to include comment from the Drug Policy Action.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore.
White House Drug Officials Say Legal Marijuana Is Up To States
Two top federal drug officials, including the White House drug czar, recently said that marijuana legalization should be left up to states.
The comments stand out coming from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has historically played a central role in defending blanket federal prohibition.
Jim Carroll, the Trump-appointed drug czar who directs the administration’s drug policies, told Fox 59 reporter Kayla Sullivan that he considers legalization a states’ right issue. He added that he’d like to see targeted education campaigns concerning cannabis use during pregnancy and underage usage as well as research into impaired driving.
Got the answer: He believes it should be left up to the state. However, he does want to educate people on the effect marijuana has on young brain development, pregnant women and wants to come up with better guidance & testing for marijuana while driving. https://t.co/eifryNJB1j
— Kayla Sullivan (@KaylaReporting) August 14, 2019
It’s a particularly notable position given that federal law stipulates that the drug czar is required to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” listed as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, including marijuana.
Even if Carroll’s remarks arguably don’t directly violate that statute, they are significant in that he doesn’t seem to have taken the opportunity to proactively oppose state legalization efforts when asked by a reporter.
Anne Hazlett, senior advisor at ONDCP, also weighed in on cannabis legalization on Wednesday, telling CentralIllinoisProud.com that marijuana legalization is “a state decision.”
“Marijuana is an ongoing challenge that is being addressed in many of our states,” she said. “This is a state decision, and we would like to see additional research done so that these decisions being made at a state level are being made in a manor that is fully informed.”
Though the comments from Carroll and Hazlett seem to reflect an evolving understanding of the federal government’s role in imposing prohibition on the states, the ONDCP director has previously made clear he’s not enthusiastic about the burgeoning legal market.
During a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing in May, Carroll raised concerns about THC potency in marijuana products, saying “the marijuana we have today is nothing like what it was when I was a kid, when I was in high school.”
“Back then the THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you high, was in the teens in terms of the percentage,” he said. “Now what we’re seeing is twice that, three times that, in the plant.”
He also said that more research is needed and that the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the Department of Health and Human Services are “working hard to make sure that we understand the impact of legalization of marijuana on the body.”
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.