Farm Bill 2023: Three ways to improve CBD (Guest column) | Turn 420
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Farm Bill 2023: Three ways to improve CBD (Guest column)



Before they sell out: Get tickets to NY Cannabis Insider’s conference on Nov. 4 in Tarrytown, featuring a slew of expert panelists, free business consultations and professional headshots, networking, lunch and a happy hour.

The Farm Bill of 2018 – the trigger that regulated hemp production and brought cannabidiol (CBD) mainstream – is up for renewal next year.

As stakeholders make their cases to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, let’s look at three ways to improve the state of CBD when updating the landmark legislation.

Farm Bill: How did we get here

The Farm Bill is an omnibus bill that governs much of the US food and agriculture system. Renewed every five to seven years, this upcoming version will last through at least 2028.

It’s worth noting that hemp, until Farm Bill 2014, had been outlawed since 1938. The 2014 bill removed federal restrictions on the cultivation and production of hemp, and the 2018 version authorized commercial production of the crop under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture.

The decision brought hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids mainstream. Last year, farmers produced $824 million worth of industrial hemp across 50,000 acres. Farm Bill 2018 brought forward important change – but it’s in no way perfect. The bill laid a legal pathway for hemp production but created overly complicated regulations and hardship for farmers and small businesses in the process.

Going forward, it’s vital to revise the legislation and make improvements. Namely, the industry deserves certainty surrounding CBD as a dietary supplement, clarification on Delta-8 THC and reconsideration of hemp’s legal THC limit.

Allow CBD as a dietary supplement

The top priority will be to regulate CBD and other non-intoxicating hemp derivatives as dietary supplements. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t allow CBD in foods, beverages or dietary supplements because it is found in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug. Moreover, the agency has repeatedly stated it can’t set any regulations for over-the-counter hemp products because it doesn’t have enough data to say they’re safe.

At the same time, the agency has discounted industry-funded research on the safety of CBD products as insufficient. With no decision forthcoming, legal yet unregulated products like tinctures, capsules, snack bars, beverages, body oils, pain-relief salves and more – all infused with CBD – have since soared in popularity. However, without FDA approval, there’s no way consumers can truly know if what they’re consuming is safe or if the product label is accurate.

Experts point out that such uncertainty hurts the industry. The FDA’s position on CBD led big retailers to be unable to carry the products, and many companies are reluctant to move forward with developing and manufacturing CBD-related products. It’s past time to end the chilling effect of this inaction. In Farm Bill 2023, legislators must seize the opportunity and regulate CBD as a dietary supplement.

Approve Delta-8 as a legal substance

Another contentious issue bubbling beneath the surface is Delta-8 THC. This cannabinoid counts a similar chemical structure to Delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive element found in marijuana. That said, Delta-8 counts smoother effects than Delta-9, making it appealing to many THC consumers.

Delta-8 is one of more than 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant though it’s not found in significant amounts. For this reason, it’s typically synthesized from legal, hemp-derived CBD.

Critics of the cannabinoid claim that it should not be legal in the first place. This is because hemp’s legalization made no mention of Delta-8 and thus became legal to sell. Since then, the industry has boomed, especially in prohibitionist states due to the relative lack of specific, restrictive policies. Federally, there remain no restrictions against hemp-derived Delta-8. However, the story is different at a state level. Today, more than 20 states have sought to restrict Delta-8.

Again, the legal limbo of the cannabinoid makes life tough for producers and consumers. It remains to be seen what will happen next in this saga but, interestingly, a federal appeals court in May declared Delta-8 THC derived from hemp is “lawful” and eligible for trademark protection. Moreover, the judges noted that “it’s for Congress to fix its mistake” if Delta-8′s legalization was an unintended consequence of Farm Bill 2018.

Increase the THC limit of hemp

Finally, industry insiders are calling for the upcoming bill to raise the allowed limit of THC in hemp. Currently set at 0.3%, industry players aim to raise it to 1%. This move would, they hope, improve the quality of hemp-based products and positively affect the industry.

The current definition focuses on the chemical compounds within the hemp plant at the time of harvest in the field or greenhouse, which commentators claim isn’t a useful yardstick for measuring the intoxicating potential of consumer products. As a result, insiders are fighting for a separate legal standard that focuses on quantities and not percentage concentration by weight.

To illustrate the difference, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles testified last month to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research. Quarles made the case that a candy bar weighs about 1.76 ounces, which converts to 50,000 mg. If that same candy bar’s THC concentration was 0.3%, it would contain 150 mg of THC,  which is higher than the typical 100 mg included per serving in adult-use products.

There’s much to consider when it comes to CBD and Farm Bill 2023. The good news is that the industry is appealing to congressional leaders and making these issues heard loud and clear. With sustained pressure, we can hope for much-needed clarity in the bill’s upcoming iteration. Watch this space.

This article is by Scott Mazza, co-Founder and COO of Buffalo’s Vitality CBD. Hailing from a background in finance, Scott is well-versed in the benefits of hemp and passionate about providing people with a natural alternative to the pharmaceutical industry.

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