By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
In December of last year, with the signage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), hemp was removed from the Controlled Substance Act, meaning it is no longer considered an illegal substance under federal law. This opened the flood gates, and at Expo West in March, many products containing CBD derived from hemp, were showcased in the expo hall. To say this is a complicated issue is an understatement, and here are five things retail RDs need to understand about CBD in food and dietary supplements.
#1: CBD vs THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) come from different varietals of the cannabis plant. Hemp is the primary source of CBD. Because of its molecular structure, THC binds with a specific receptor which sends signals to the brain that get a person high. CBD does not build to this same receptor and provides benefits without getting a person high.
#2: What the Farm Bill Did and Didn’t Do. The removal of hemp from the Controlled Substance Act means we will see increased production of and exploration into potential uses of hemp. At the same time, Congress explicitly preserved the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing CBD or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act. This means products with CBB are subject to the same authorities and requirements as FDA-regulated products containing any other substance.
#3: Is CBD a Drug, Food or Supplement? Under the FD&C Act, it’s illegal to introduce drugs into foods or dietary supplements. Because CBD is already an approved ingredient in drugs, it cannot legally be introduced into food or supplements at this time. Additionally, the FD&C Act prohibits CBD containing products from being introduced into interstate commerce.
#4: Consumer Interest in CBD. A study from A.T. Kearney in 2018 found 40% of U.S. consumers said they would be willing to try a cannabis edible and estimates by Bright Field Group suggest the CBD market is expected to reach $22 billion by 2022. Potential benefits of CBD include pain relief, reduction of anxiety and depression, acne reduction and heart health, but not all have strong scientific benefit.
#5: FDA Regulatory Actions. In early June, FDA held their first public hearing on CBD, which signals the start of the regulatory process to define regulations around potential legal use of CBD in food and dietary supplements. The process could easily take two years or more as there are multiple issues to address – testing of CBD levels to ensure consumer protection, rules around if and how claims can be made, and if and how CBD will be allowed in food and supplements given its current use as a drug. There is also concern about CBD being added to products that are typically marketed to children and whether there is enough research to support safety of CBD for use by children.