The Food and Drug Administration seems to be listening.
For the past six months, the federal agency has been bombarded with messages urging it to promptly develop a regulatory pathway for the lawful use of hemp-derived CBD (hemp-CBD) in foods and dietary supplements.
Some of these messages came from Oregon’s hemp champion, Sen. Ron Wyden, who on two occasions has publicly pressured the FDA to act on this issue.
Back in January, Wyden issued a joint letter with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), in which the Oregon lawmakers demanded that the agency update federal regulations governing the use of certain hemp-derived ingredients in food, beverages and dietary supplements.
At the end of June, Wyden issued a second letter to the agency in which he criticized former commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s suggestion that it may take the agency three to five years to issue a final regulation authorizing the lawful use of hemp-CBD in foods and dietary supplements. Specifically, Wyden explained that the regulatory confusion and uncertainties surrounding CBD could not continue much longer. To that end, Wyden recommended that the FDA adopt certain steps to streamline the regulatory process and directed the agency to issue “enforcement discretion guidance” by Aug. 1 of this year and to follow up by issuing final rules as quickly as possible while the agency develops permanent final regulations.
In response to Wyden and other stakeholders’ demands, FDA acting chief information officer Amy Abernethy recently announced on Twitter that:
“[FDA] is expediting its work to address the many questions about cannabidiol (CBD). This is an important national issue with public health impact, & an important topic for American hemp farmers and many other shareholders.”
Abernethy went on to explain that while the agency is enthusiastic about research into the therapeutic values of CBD-infused products, it is also concerned with the need for safety.
To understand the breadth of issues and gather data on safety we have conducted a public hearing, reviewed the medical literature, and have an open public docket.”
If you recall, the public hearing to which Abernethy refers was held May 31 and offered stakeholders a platform to share their thoughts and experience with the FDA and to stress the importance of developing a regulatory framework that would legalize the marketing and sale of CBD-infused foods and dietary supplements.
The public had an opportunity to weigh in with the FDA through July 16. Four days before the deadline, more than 3,000 comments had been published on the public docket. Now that the public comment period is over, the FDA will review the submitted data and anticipates reporting on its progress “around end of summer/early fall.”
Expediting the rulemaking process of CBD products will not only help clarify the legality of these products and render the cultivation and processing of hemp economically viable, it will also settle the position of many federal agencies on this issue. As we previously explained, numerous federal agencies, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco and Trade Bureau, defer to the FDA in dealing with CBD-related issues.
Whether the FDA meets its proposed timeline, we will continue to monitor and report on its progress.