Merkley fields questions on CBD oil

SALEM — As appropriations bills get ready to hit the Senate floor, a $2 million appropriation for research on cannabidiol could guide Oregon farmers growing the crop.

Cannabidiol, known more commonly as CBD, is a main component of hemp, which is on track to be a billion dollar crop for Oregon this year.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley said he wanted to make sure funding was set aside for research, policy evaluation and market analysis for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate CBD.

The non-psychoactive ingredient has risen in popularity as companies have infused it into everything from gummy bears to shampoo. This week The Associated Press released a report detailing lab testing done by the AP and by law enforcement on CBD products. They found some products claiming to contain CBD had none at all, while others mixed in illegal synthetic marijuana without labeling it as such. In some cases, people have ended up in the hospital from ingesting or vaping synthetic marijuana disguised as a CBD product.

“We’re in the Wild West,” Merkley said.

He said some people are of a mind that the FDA should stay “hands off” on CBD products as long as a specific health claim is not being made. Others want to see the FDA crack down on fraudulent labeling.

“I would encourage them to put significant effort into accurate labeling and disclosure to provide a better foundation for consumers,” Merkley said.

He said hemp farmers also need the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide a standardized method for testing their crop for THC, the high-inducing component in marijuana. The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp, but if a crop has more than 0.3% THC levels, it becomes an illegal marijuana crop under current federal law.

Merkley said the type of test used, when the testing is performed and other factors influence the results, however, so it is important that regulations were put in place for everyone’s crop to be tested by the same standard.