There might not have been a year more pivotal than 2021 in the push for legalization. Half of the 50 states have fully legalized cannabis, while many others have committed to reform in varying degrees (medical cannabis, decriminalization, etc.). Overall, there’s an evident shift in attitudes towards cannabis, though activists have hoped the good change would come out of it more rapidly.
Because cannabis is regarded as a Schedule I drug, there have been complications in industry regulations. For one, a few states that haven’t legalized cannabis allow sales of CBD products, which are federally legal (as is hemp) as long as they contain 0.3% or less THC, the cannabinoid in marijuana that creates psychoactive effects. Unfortunately, CBD, like THC, hasn’t received federal approval in other realms, such as being a food additive. Testing for CBD products on shelves isn’t rigidly regulated. Risks are still high for products found on shelves.
There might be a ways to go until the legalization of THC products happens on a federal level. However, there are some promising signs ahead for CBD enthusiasts. According to international law firm Harris Bricken, a new act receiving bipartisan support called the CBD Product Safety and Standardization Act would revolutionize the CBD market entirely. Congress introduced the Act in early December with the aim of moving towards federally legalizing and regulating hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) inside of food and beverages.
There are four notable points in the CBD Product Safety and Standardization Act. For one, it would establish that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have to regulate CBD as any other food ingredient and food additive. The CBD industry would have to undergo a significant amount of testing before products hit the shelves. Ultimately, the FDA would also have to create safety measures for consumers, including packaging such as tamper-evident jars with the appropriate warning verbiage. The FDA would also have to develop rules surrounding what types of food can be used appropriately with CBD.
U.S. Representatives Morgan Griffith Dan Crenshaw (TX-02), (VA-09), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), and Angie Craig (MN-02) brought the bipartisan bill to Congress in an attempt to address the fake CBD products floating in the market. Rep. Rice, Rep. Craig, and Rep. Griffith acknowledged the roadblocks consumers have faced to obtain CBD as popularity spiked in the past few years. “It’s clear that this growing industry needs regulatory clarity in order to continue selling their products safely and effectively,” said Representative Craig in a press release.
The bill gained exceptional support from the Consumer Brands Association and the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, who both spoke in support. Betsy Booran, VP of regulatory and technical at Consumer Brands Association, said that 74% of consumers feel that CBD is currently legal on a federal level. General Counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable added that the hemp industry is grateful for this groundbreaking move.
The federal government has taken gradual steps towards this moment in Congress to create CBD safeguards. In 2018, the Farm Bill finally removed CBD from the Controlled Substances Act. However, this did not help enforce regulations or laws surrounding distribution, testing, and manufacturing. In recent years, the CBD market blossomed in popularity, especially in various forms, whether food, beverages, or cosmetics.
Because the Farm Bill didn’t change the FDA’s stance on CBD, there’s been a considerable gap between the Controlled Substance Act and the Food and Drug Administration’s laws. The CBD Product Safety and Standardized Act would finally help consumers ensure they get their hands on safe products while pushing out “bad actors that ignore federal requirements,” per the press release. Further, certain states have legalized CBD, so this would bring more clarity to companies as they’ve tried to navigate through a grey area.
The question remains: how does this open the doors for legal THC and other cannabinoids? We’ve seen a spike in states legalizing recreational cannabis and even more states legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Several members of Congress have already presented bills for legalization, though President Biden stated there needs to be more research. Only recently have researchers been given access to dispensary cannabis instead of government-grown plants that hardly match the state-legal products. The Infrastructure Investment or Jobs Act included a provision to improve cannabis research across America. Hopefully, this signals meaningful reform pertaining to cannabis soon.