Scott Mazza breaks down the industry's top regulatory priorities related to CBD.
The CBD industry is making its legislative priorities for this year loud and clear – treat the compound as any other dietary supplement and food ingredient, make testing easier, and raise the THC limit of hemp.
Earlier this month, more than 30 hemp groups reaffirmed their priorities for Farm Bill 2024. The five-year omnibus bill – postponed by one year in November – is the first chance to rewrite the rulebook since it legalized hemp in 2018.
Let’s dig into the current legal context, consider what’s on the regulatory horizon, and look at the industry’s three main demands.
The supplement and ingredient question
As I wrote last year, The Farm Bill will undoubtedly mark regulatory chatter over the next 12 months. This prediction was proven right in the first week of the new year. On January 3, The US Hemp Roundtable shared its legislative objectives with government representatives. Comprised of 33 non-profit organizations representing every facet of the supply chain, the group’s objectives “aim to create more jobs while providing much-needed regulatory direction for farmers.”
In my view, the first demand is also the most important: Regulate CBD and other ingredients derived from hemp under the existing frameworks for dietary supplements and food additives.
This call follows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determining last year that CBD requires a distinct regulatory framework dedicated to dietary supplements and food. This decision disappointed many in the industry because the risk management reasons cited by the FDA – like prevention of contaminants and CBD content limits – can be adequately addressed with existing regulations to ensure product safety and quality.
Further, there’s no timeline for the creation of this additional regulatory pathway, adding to consumer and producer uncertainty. Considering CBD’s increasing popularity across applications – from a holistic wellness tool to use as a workout supplement – many see the move toward a separate regulatory pathway as a move toward extra, unnecessary hurdles. The industry is clear that existing regulatory frameworks are sufficient – use them to classify hemp as an ingredient and supplement.
The imbalance of testing
Another element the industry wants to review is testing. Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that laboratories testing THC levels in hemp must receive certification from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Although the USDA has temporarily suspended this requirement – twice – continuing with this rule will cause bottlenecks for producers, place a heavy burden on farmers in areas lacking DEA-certified labs, and lead to profit losses due to delays.
This demand is simple enough: Address the shortage by allowing other labs – with or without DEA certification – to pick up the slack.
This promises a small but important change. By turning to other reputable lab sources, farmers gain flexibility without compromising the quality of analysis. A win-win.
The importance of THC limits
And, while we’re discussing the testing issues under the current rules, let’s consider THC limits.
The current benchmark for hemp – 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis – poses challenges for farmers. This is because factors like climate and soil conditions, or even errors in sampling and testing, sometimes force farmers to destroy so-called “hot crops” that minimally exceed the federal THC threshold.
The industry wants to make life easier for farmers and avoid this issue by reasonably raising the legal limit of THC by dry weight to 1%. This modification not only streamlines cultivation but also secures the position of hemp as a profitable and versatile crop.
By embracing a more realistic THC limit, Congress can strike a balance that respects the challenges faced by farmers while safeguarding the hemp industry’s integrity.
CBD: Under one banner and in one voice
Of course, more than three elements need legislative attention in this industry. The legal status of Delta-8, for example, and its extended family of hemp-derived cannabinoids is another gray area in need of clarification. Likewise, in the face of only 7% of CBD brands testing for all impurities, product purity and potency also require better oversight.
In another key year for hemp regulation, it’s heartening to see various stakeholders come together under one banner and one voice. These are sensible and overdue changes – now let’s hope lawmakers play ball.
Further delays to this bill are likely, especially with the federal election later in the year, but the industry is starting negotiations off on the right foot. It knows what works and what doesn’t better than most. Coming to Congress with a clear set of demands offers us the best chance to enact positive change in this all-important omnibus legislation.
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.