A parody version of Maria from The Sound of Music would provide an amusing soundtrack to a discussion about federal hemp policy. But the regulatory challenges facing the hemp industry are quite serious. The stakes are high. Now more than ever, time is of the essence.
Hemp-derived cannabidiol (a.k.a. CBD) was explicitly legalized by the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. Farmers from coast to coast immediately saw opportunity in this legislation, and invested time and money to grow the hemp from which CBD is derived. Meanwhile, a little further down the supply chain, natural products companies invested in R&D, production, marketing and sales to create a marketplace for new products. American consumers, increasingly interested in natural remedies and intrigued by the potential of the hemp plant, seemed poised to purchase CBD products.
Unfortunately, soon after the Farm Bill was signed into law, FDA began to ramp up its public pronouncements that it was illegal to sell CBD in ingestible form. The agency has never enforced its legally-dubious opinion. Its only actions have been to send warning letters to companies that make outrageous health claims, but the deep regulatory uncertainty FDA has created has set a dark cloud over the industry.
The results of this regulatory "gray area" have been devastating. Farmers have lost millions in unsold crops. CBD products on the marketplace are under-regulated, which opens the door to bad actors who create products using questionable methods. And of course, it is the customers who ultimately lose, as they must take a buyer-beware approach when making their CBD purchases.
Fortunately, several hemp-friendly elected officials understand the problem that is CBD regulation, and today Capitol Hill is alive with two viable legislative solutions.
On the House side, H.R. 841—the Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2021—would ensure hemp-derived CBD, and other non-intoxicating hemp ingredients, could be lawfully marketed as dietary supplements. This would also require CBD products and hemp extract product manufacturers to comply with the existing comprehensive regulatory framework for dietary supplements, which ensures products are deemed safe, properly labeled and prepared using cGMPs (current good manufacturing practices). Introduced earlier this year by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), H.R. 841 has already secured 28 sponsors and co-sponsors from across the country and on both sides of the aisle.
Over in the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a similar bill. The Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act (S. 1698) provides the same legislative solution but expands it to also allow CBD into food and beverages. Introduced in May of this year, S. 1698 is co-sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
H.R. 841 and S. 1698 are high priorities for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. Indeed, they should be for every business working in the hemp and natural products industries. We recently launched regulateCBDnow.com, an online platform where people can send their U.S. representative and senators a letter of support for these two important bills. With a few clicks on the keyboard, your voice can be heard on this critical legislation.
Passage of one or both of these bills would be a game-changer for the natural products industry. While there is momentum for both bills, their passage is not assured, which is why we urge the natural products industry to be vocal in their support.
If you want to see government at its best, there’s no better example than H.R. 841 and S. 1698. Washington can be a frustrating place, and rare is the opportunity to do something meaningful that benefits so many people, and all with very little opposition. The U.S. Hemp Roundtable applauds the members of Congress who support these important bills, and encourages others to join the growing list of co-sponsors.
The passage of one or both of these bills would be music to a growing industry’s ears.
Jonathan Miller helped found the U.S. Hemp Roundtable (and its sister organization, the U.S. Hemp Authority) and serves as general counsel. A recovering politician—the Democrat was elected twice as Kentucky’s State Treasurer—he has worked across the aisle on critical legislation with hemp champions such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, including the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills.