CBD in 2023: A recap of regulatory inaction, scientific milestones, and social progress

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Also, what to watch in 2024.

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Irina

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Irina

Another year, another mixed bag for the hemp cannabidiol (CBD) industry. Despite CBD’s positive scientific and social advances this year, regulators dragged their feet on CBD progress in 2023.

Let’s dive into the year in CBD and consider what’s on the horizon in 2024.

Farm Bill 2023 Is Now Farm Bill 2024

Arguably the biggest change this year for CBD relates to the Farm Bill. 2023 marked the five-year expiration date of this omnibus agricultural policy. Importantly, this offered the first chance to update the cornerstone bill since it legalized hemp nationwide in 2018.

Many in the industry, myself included, have flagged changes to look forward to in the forthcoming bill. Principally, the cannabis industry wants confirmation regarding the legality of delta-8 THC. While the hemp-derived psychoactive compound delta-8 THC is technically legal federally, bans on delta-8 THC are in place in 20 states. In turn, hemp companies have taken legal action to delay or overturn such state bans.

Unfortunately, producers in this space will remain in legal limbo for another year. In November, the passage of the emergency funding bill to avoid a government shutdown also included an extension of the Farm Bill until September 2024. The debate around what to include and exclude in the bill will undoubtedly mark regulatory chatter over the next 12 months.

There was, at least, some movement this year regarding CBD as a dietary supplement. As reported earlier this year, FDA determined that CBD requires a distinct regulatory framework dedicated to dietary supplements and food. This decision disappointed many stakeholders because early indications from FDA suggest the agency is reluctant to allow CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement. Industry stakeholders consider this unfortunate given preliminary research on CBD’s potential advantages in addressing anxiety and insomnia, as well as its increasing popularity as a workout supplement. Nevertheless, FDA posits that guardrails are required for CBD production, especially when it comes to preventing contaminants and assuring product potency. I certainly agree with this point. Watch this space.

Good News on the Science Front

Meanwhile, investigations continued to reveal the positive benefits of CBD. For example, two new studies, as covered here, showed that the cannabinoid might not only potentially curb opioid cravings but also enhance the effects of the opioid antidote naloxone. This is a hugely important discovery amid America’s opioid epidemic, a health crisis that has led to the deaths of more than half a million people over the past two decades.

Another study looked into CBD dosage guidelines for the first time. This insight marks a significant shift from relying on dosage approximations to making science- and health-informed decisions, particularly as CBD becomes a key supplement for millions of consumers in the United States.

Finally, another study on hair loss, as covered here, showed that a topical hemp formulation may be superior to traditional remedies like oral finasteride and minoxidil. While this may appear trivial, hair loss is a significant and distressing experience impacting up to 50% of both men and women. Finding solutions for this condition, particularly with minimal side effects, has the potential to enhance the emotional and physical well-being of many millions.

These are just three studies in an ocean of investigations undertaken for CBD this year. I haven’t even touched upon, for example, the other exciting results of research on CBD and fibromyalgia, migraines, and nausea. In my view, robust research like this will help reshape the discourse on CBD. Rather than being perceived as a “novelty” product, science-backed evidence reframes the compound within the context of promoting well-being. And this is vital to market maturity.

The Death of the Cannabis Taboo

In a little under five years since hemp legalization, CBD has been taken far more seriously by consumers. In 2023, one-quarter of respondents in a consumer study indicated they are either currently using CBD products as part of their lifestyle routine or are interested in trying CBD products.

Looking ahead, Statista predicts that the worldwide use of cannabis will increase significantly to more than one billion people by 2027. The number of CBD users now totals 600 million people globally. These trends show no signs of slowing. A record 7 in 10 Americans now think marijuana use should be legal. This, of course, bodes well for consumers experimenting with and benefiting from CBD. All signs point to less taboo moving forward regarding cannabis and cannabis compounds, and a greater embrace by these emerging markets.

In all, there was more to celebrate than to commiserate in 2023 when it comes to CBD. Certainly, it’s disappointing that Congress couldn’t get the omnibus bill over the line, especially since they had years to prepare for any funding roadblocks. Here’s hoping the extension gives the industry another opportunity to sit down with lawmakers about the importance of decisions regarding delta-8 THC, dietary supplements, and production guidelines. Let’s look forward to conversations in good faith and taking advantage of the social and scientific momentum in CBD. Here’s to 2024.

About the Author

Scott Mazza is the co-founder and COO of Vitality CBD (Buffalo, NY). Hailing from a background in finance, Scott is well versed in the benefits of hemp and is passionate about providing people with a natural alternative to the pharmaceuticals.

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