Summary: What’s new with CBD news in 2019? Join CBGenius CBD writer Samuel Popejoy on an exploration of the CBD world’s latest changes and what they mean for you.
The legal and cultural status of CBD is always changing. CBD is a cannabinoid, which means it’s inextricably related to THC, which is an intoxicating and (mostly) illegal drug. At the same time, however, CBD isn’t the active ingredient in marijuana, and it has entirely different effects.
Therefore, the U.S. federal government is having a hard time regulating the burgeoning domestic CBD industry. Certain states have passed laws legalizing the possession of cannabis with THC, which confuses things even more. Most of the top recent CBD news stories have to do with the country’s ongoing efforts to understand and use CBD in the best way possible. Join me as we dive into the world of CBD as 2019 enters its final few chapters.
1. The Curaleaf Letter
On June 22, 2019, the FDA dropped the hammer so hard that the whole industry momentarily jumped up in fright. In fact, this federal agency’s letter to the CBD company Curaleaf was polite, well-written, and provided more than two weeks for the company to come into compliance. What was so shocking about the Curaleaf letter was what it means about the future of the CBD industry.
Up until this point, the CBD industry was secure in its belief that making indirect medical claims about products containing cannabidiol was okay. We’d all learned a few years prior that direct claims certainly aren’t okay; during an earlier age of the CBD industry, a few companies received not-so-nice letters with requests from the FDA that they stop saying that CBD is a 100% cancer cure and other such blatant claims.
We all thought, however, that linking to scientific studies and saying that “CBD may do this” or “CBD might do that” was perfectly acceptable. The Curaleaf letter, however, taught us the error of our ways and showed us the bright path forward to compliance with the FDA.
According to the FDA, any time you reference a medical condition in association with CBD in a positive light, that’s a medical claim. For instance, saying that “CBD might cure cancer” is no different than “CBD definitely cures cancer.” The words in-between aren’t what matters—what matters is that the two ideas “CBD” and “cures cancer” are related to each other in a positive light. Any CBD company that has even one such claim on its website, physical labeling, social media site, or any other space that the FDA considers to be “labeling” is out of compliance with regulations and is in potential legal jeopardy.
Here at CBGenius, we’re hard at work getting our site into compliance with the new FDA standards. As a CBD insider, I hope you’ll take my word that the state of the CBD industry has been in significant turmoil ever since the Curaleaf letter. While the process of getting the entirety of a CBD company’s “labeling” is a headache, this news is also somewhat promising.
By serving this warning letter to Curaleaf, the FDA is indicating that it’s taking CBD seriously and is moving forward apace with its planned regulatory schedule. The ideas that the FDA articulates in the Curaleaf letter mark the start of a new stage in American CBD commerce, and the industry now believes that serious regulatory action may be imminent within 12 months or less.
2. The CBD Liver Toxin Scare
Is CBD bad for your liver? A few months ago, you may have taken note when a story on Forbes linked to a study indicating that cannabidiol might harm your liver. At the time, practically nobody had heard of the study, and the Forbes article brought this situation to the attention of certain prominent voices within the CBD industry.
It’s important to note that Forbes operates more like Huffington Post than the New York Times—many of its stories are submitted by freelance contributors, and they vary in quality. The June 18 Forbes piece by Mike Adams appears to be well-written and researched. However, it comes down strongly against CBD in a way that doesn’t suggest intentional bias but, rather, lack of education when it comes to CBD and cannabis in general.
Within hours of the publication of the Forbes article, many hemp advocates pointed out glaring issues with the study’s methods and other irregularities that might invalidate its findings. Remember that no study can be considered to “prove” anything; the results of studies have to be regulated and thoroughly examined by the scientific community before they can constitute as proof, and even then, the “truth” of science is always in flux.
One of the fastest and most articulate rebuttals came from Adrian Devitt-Lee, the operator of Project CBD. This organization is a non-profit CBD advocate that posts a lot of CBD-related information online. Devitt-Lee posted a long-form article on his platform that tackled every part of the Mike Adams Forbes article piece-by-piece. If there are ever moments of drama in the laid-back CBD industry, this was one of them, and the bruises the community sustained during that information struggle still ache today.
So, what’s the verdict? Does CBD cause liver damage? It’s not up to us to say. We can point out that scientific studies show that CBD doesn’t have any serious side effects, but again, studies don’t prove anything individually.
Until the FDA and other relevant regulatory agencies around the world rule on the safety and use cases for CBD, it will be impossible for us to have any definitive data on the potential dangers of CBD. There are some serious flaws with the CBD liver toxicity study, but that doesn’t mean all the points it brings up are invalid. The simple answer is that we need to pour more funding into CBD so these matters can be investigated thoroughly. If CBD is truly to become the OTC drug of the century, we need to start by getting to the bottom of the potential effects and side effects of CBD.
The good news is that anecdotal evidence doesn’t seem to indicate a trend in terms of CBD and hepatoxicity. We don’t know exactly how many people have tried CBD-infused products both in America and abroad at this point, but the number is certainly in the millions. Out of those people who use CBD commonly, reports of any adverse effects whatsoever are incredibly rare. Anecdotal testimony doesn’t offer enough evidence to make final regulatory decisions, but agencies like the FDA do use it to make their decisions. Remember to leave a review after you try a CBGenius product.
Disclaimer: As always, remember that nothing posted at CBGenius.net is intended as medical or legal advice. The content of this and other articles is meant as general commentary on the status of the CBD industry. If you have a financial interest in CBD, always consult with a lawyer before you make any moves, and if you’re a CBD consumer, remember that it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start using a new substance.
3. California Assembly Bill 228
As I recently discussed in an update to our definitive Your Complete Guide to CBD Laws in California article here at the CBGenius blog, California is on the verge of passing Assembly Bill 228, which would grant certain freedoms to CBD producers in the state. According to the Canna Law Blog, the main takeaways from CA-AB 228 are the following:
- Licensed cannabis producers would also be able to make and sell CBD products. All CBD products now have to go through lab testing before they can be sold in-state.
- The bill proposes new regulation of CBD in food products. The main premise of AB 228 is to make it so that food products containing CBD aren’t considered “adulterated” in California. In the regulatory world, “adulterated” is usually used to refer to a food product that contains a prescription or illegal drug, which means that the stipulations of AB 228 may set a precedent beyond state law.
- Hemp products that contain food must contain hemp that’s made in adequate conditions. Foods, beverages, and cosmetics that contain CBD must be labeled according to new state guidelines.
- There’s no indication when the senate hearing for CA-AB 228 will take place. Lawmakers haven’t set a date for making this bill into something that can move on to the governor’s desk. Changes may be made to the bill between now and then.
The reason that CA-AB 228 is interesting is what this legislation tells us about the current state of CBD law around the country. While this isn’t the case as much as it was 50 years ago, California still serves as one of the nation’s most prominent cultural laboratories, and legislative trends that start in California often cascade across the country.
California is being forced to admit that CBD isn’t that different from recreational cannabis. Despite the fact that CBD products can (essentially) be sold across the nation and cannabis can only be sold in recreational marijuana states, it’s necessary for state governments like California to treat THC cannabis and CBD cannabis relatively equally.
The ultimate goal is to normalize the CBD industry in California, which would go a long way toward normalizing the CBD industry across the nation. At present, there are wild price discrepancies between CBD products found in the recreational marijuana market and those found in the general market cannabidiol industry, and a lot of that comes down to the restrictions and privations facing national cannabidiol brands that aren’t affecting recreational marijuana producers.
It appears, however, that the market is gradually forcing legislation to adapt. The way things were going in California simply wasn’t making any sense. California is now the land of milk and honey if you want to get high on THC, but the legality of a simple CBD gummy remains seriously questioned by the highest legislative authorities in the land.
Things won’t normalize either in California or throughout the rest of the country for quite some time. It’s unlikely that AB 228 will get a final hearing before the end of the year, and the federal government appears to be taking its time as it prepares to begin regulatory action within the CBD industry. Until then, I’ll keep giving you the CBD news, and CBGenius will continue supplying the high-quality and affordable cannabidiol-infused products.
4. The Mingling of American and International Cannabis Markets
It was just announced that Canadian cannabis firm Cronos has paid $300 million to enter the American hemp market. In the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill, major players in the cannabis production industry are lining up to take advantage of a market that’s expected to swell to $20 per year by 2024. By then, however, systemic changes to the way CBD is sold in the USA might have already substantially altered these projections.
This news comes on the heels of reports in June that Canopy Growth, the Canadian firm that’s currently the world’s biggest cannabis producer, is expanding its operations in the United States. While I’m not privy to the hushed conversations that Canopy Growth’s upper management team has with the firm’s top-tier cannabis lawyers, my sources tell me that serious changes are on the way for American cannabis production.
Currently, the District of Columbia and seven states have legalized recreational marijuana, which has set the trend across the country. Even if you aren’t a highly-paid cannabis lawyer working for a big firm, it’s clear to see that cannabis legalization is moving in only one direction in the United States: forward. Federal cannabis legalization is inevitable in the United States, the only question is when.
From the moves that Canadian cannabis firms are making, the answer is probably sooner than we think. The American hemp cultivation industry is finally stable enough for shareholders to invest heavily in U.S.-based cannabis projects, and the more that investment flows in, the harder it becomes to tell hemp and cannabis producers apart.
Within a short period of time, whichever artificial borders are standing in-between free commerce and what the consumers want will fall down unless this desired change is artificially suppressed. The same is currently happening in the case of automation and AI; new technologies are displacing lots of jobs, but automation is inevitable because in a goods-based economy, the consumer is king.
5. Cannabis Law Enforcement Becoming Impossible
Is it cannabis, or is it hemp? It’s impossible to say. Especially in the case of CBD flower, cannabidiol “hemp” products are often indistinguishable from THC “marijuana” products. Therefore, people in possession of marijuana in prohibition states have easy defenses at traffic stops, and marijuana possession cases are becoming practically impossible with the, “It’s only hemp,” legal defense reigning supreme.
In many ways, the introduction of CBD into the American general market served as a premonition of doom for cannabis prohibition throughout the nation. CBD-rich cannabis flower and THC-rich cannabis flower are indistinguishable except to connoisseurs, and lab tests are required to determine the THC and CBD content of a suspected marijuana-infused substance.
A system already taxed to a significant degree met a breaking point with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides special protections to CBD by removing this cannabinoid from the definition of “marijuana” under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). While the FDA hasn’t ruled on the safety of CBD products aside from Epidiolex, the fledgling American cannabidiol market has essentially been legitimized, and the fusion of Canadian cannabis interests with American hemp cultivation is but the latest sign that the U.S. cannabis and CBD markets are about to intertwine at a national level.
Inevitably, “marijuana” and “hemp” will need to be regulated together. It’s simply too time-consuming and confusing for law enforcement officers to lab test every “hemp-type” product they seize to determine which cannabinoids they contain and in what quantities. Recently, President Trump reiterated that it’s his administration’s policy to let the states decide what to do about legalizing marijuana, which has essentially been the federal government’s position throughout the last two administrations.
There will come a time, however, when the federal government will have to make a ruling. In most cases, marijuana is not treated as a Schedule I substance anymore, so THC-infused products will need to be rescheduled. The FDA, for its part, appears to be taking the cannabis situation seriously, and its recent regulatory efforts with CBD indicate that this agency’s involvement with cannabis and cannabinoids will soon extend far beyond regulating the G.W. Pharmaceuticals drugs Sativex and Epidiolex.
The federal government commonly uses the states as “laboratories of democracy” as it attempts to gauge the impact of cultural shifts and interest in new drugs or products. As the states determine how they each individually want to deal with marijuana, the federal government will gather data and attempt to provide a cohesive structure to keep cannabis law coherent in the United States.
As this regulatory infrastructure gets smoothed out, prices will normalize for both CBD products and THC products, and product diversity will improve. Some states may decide to be more restrictive of THC cannabis than they are of CBD cannabis just as laws on liquor versus beer vary from state to state. In the end, however, you can’t split a plant species into two. Cannabis sativa is a single species of plant, and while it yields a wide variety of active ingredients, expect cannabis law to get a lot more all-encompassing over the next couple of years.
The Bottom Line: Federal Cannabis Legalization Soon?
All things are impermanent. Cannabis legislation won’t be the same forever, and it’s clear which direction marijuana law is moving in the United States. While there have been some drawbacks to recreational marijuana, cannabis production has been a boon to struggling state economies, and the overall economic impact of the cannabis industry can’t be overlooked.
At its best, government doesn’t oversee the economy. Business owners are trusted to make wise decisions, and legislation adapts to economic changes rather than directs it. Hopefully, cannabis legislation will follow this ideal trajectory in the United States. If American hemp farmers and farming interests don’t want all their hemp production controlled by Canadian companies, then they must advocate for cannabis law, in general, to change in the United States. This isn’t just a social justice concern or a reason to end the drug war. It’s an economic and national security concern as well.
The more that cannabis (both THC and CBD) producers continue to use domestic hemp, farmers affected by the ongoing trade war have a crop to fall back on. Plus, if we let foreign interests dominate our hemp industry, there’s no telling which direction American CBD and cannabis might take. Legalizing cannabis takes money away from the ruthless Mexican cartels, and it prevents some of the opioid death caused by notorious Chinese-manufacturers pharmaceuticals like fentanyl.
Here at CBGenius, we’re proud to use all-domestic hemp to produce our CBD products. From our facilities on the Eastern Slope of the Colorado Rockies, we get our hemp from local Colorado producers who respect the land and understand the power that hemp has to reshape entire communities. Hemp, cannabis, marijuana, whatever you want to call it—It has to be regulated, we need to fully understand its safety, and we need to keep it out of the hands of children. The booming CBD market can’t be ignored anymore, however, and it’s in our national interest to invest as much as we can into the American cannabinoid boom.