Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday that the hemp industry has had a challenging start since the crop was federally legalized and that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated its problems.
During a press conference with Senate Republican leadership, McConnell was asked about the uncertainty hemp farmers face in the absence of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance on marketing CBD products and whether anything could be done to compel the agency to expedite its rulemaking to prevent farmers from abandoning the crop.
“Honestly I’m not on top of the latest on that,” he said. “But in that whole hemp space, which is what you’re referring to, it’s been a rocky start for this new crop even before the pandemic hit and that hasn’t made anything easier.”
“I have had numerous conversations with [FDA] Commissioner Hahn and his predecessors on the importance of providing regulatory certainty for the hemp industry,” McConnell later told Marijuana Moment, through a spokesperson. “This remains a top priority of mine. Regulatory certainty from the FDA is necessary for the hemp industry to seize the full potential that this versatile crop has to offer.”
McConnell’s office said in an email that he has spoken with the FDA head about the need to release CBD product regulations “as recently as earlier this month.”
The majority leader, who has been a strong advocate for hemp and helped usher in its legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill, also talked about marijuana earlier on Tuesday. On the Senate floor, he lambasted a provision of COVID-19 relief legislation that the House approved that would promote diversity in the cannabis industry as part of marijuana banking language that was included.
The Senate’s coronavirus bill won’t “send diversity detectives into the cannabis industry,” he said, echoing comments he previously made narrowly criticizing that provision of the banking proposal.
MCCONNELL: The Senate won’t be wasting the American people’s time like the House Democrats, with their multi-trillion-dollar proposal to hike taxes on small businesses, cut taxes for blue-state millionaires, and send diversity detectives into the cannabis industry.
— Senate Republican Communications Center (@SRCC) July 21, 2020
While McConnell said during the press conference that he might not be up to speed on the latest FDA action on CBD, the agency released draft guidance on Tuesday that lays out proposals for conducting research into cannabis for drug development purposes.
FDA is still in the process of developing regulations that could allow for CBD to be marketed as a food item or dietary supplement, but in the meantime it has worked to create these new research guidelines for drug manufacturing.
FDA also recently submitted a report to Congress on the state of the CBD marketplace, 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.
Also this month, a spending bill for FDA was released that includes a provision providing “funding to develop a framework for regulating CBD products.”
This story was updated with additional comment from McConnell.
Photo courtesy of Senate Majority Leader.