It’s Already Been Over One Year Since the 2018 Farm Bill: Understanding Hemp Legalization and Mirky FDA Regulations in the CBD Market

It’s already been over a year since hemp legalization and we can finally say it out loud: hemp is federally legal!

Hemp and Handcuffs

That’s national scale, deeming millions of consumers and businesses consuming and handling this green gold, no longer as “criminals”; as strange as it sounds.

FDA Regulation of CBD

And while that’s great and all, there are still many hurdles to overcome:

  • The FDA is still very much indecisive about the CBD market, and how to approach regulating it. They want to figure out how to protect consumers from this wild-west-like market. It seems that there are more “snake-oils” sold out there, rather than legitimate high-quality products into which a lot of R&D investment was poured. Did someone say quick easy money?...

  • There is an abundance of medical claims that are thrown out there. And, even if some are somewhat true, they are unsupported by studies or clinical trials. Additionally, some businesses are marketing CBD products under the umbrella of “dietary supplements”, which makes them subject to regulation by the FDA.

Because of all this, the FDA has stepped up its game and begun cracking down hard on companies that are violating their guidelines.

The Farm Bill in Retrospect

There’s still a lot of confusion concerning hemp’s relationship with marijuana, read more about this topic in a previous blogpost – The Good Boy & The Bad Boy. Hemp, Cannabis and CBD. Confused?. Therefore, it’s important to clarify that hemp is not marijuana, although it does come from similar species of the cannabis plant. More specifically, industrial hemp is of the Cannabis sativa L. strain.

Historically, hemp has been classified as a schedule one substance under the controlled substance act, as a result of its similarity to marijuana. However, that changed with the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed the production of hemp under certain circumstances by universities and state departments of agriculture for research purposes.

The most recent Farm Bill, released in December of 2018, went a step further and, more broadly, legalized hemp production in the US and removed it from that schedule-one list.

It also included an actual definition of what is considered industrial hemp, setting a threshold of 0.3% THC (that’s the ingredient that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties). In other words, any hemp that goes above this threshold is considered illegal and, in fact, not hemp.

Additionally, the farm bill listed hemp as a covered commodity under crop insurance. That’s wake-up time for many risk-averse farmers who can now, more confidently, capitalize on this mega-market

Farm Bill Infographic

The Farm Is Further Fueling The Exploding CBD Industry

One thing is clear about the 2018 Farm Bill: it helps in advancing the CBD market to maturity. According to Roy Bingham, Co-Founder and CEO of BDS Analytics, a leading Colorado-based cannabis market intelligence and research provider:

“We’re witnessing CBD maturing from a cannabis sub-category into a full-blown industry of its own”.

Soon, specialized stores and dispensaries will give way to sales of CBD products in general retail stores. Consumers are fascinated by the benefits of CBD, yet the penetration of hemp-derived CBD products in the US is only about 15%.

But, still, there’s a long way to go in terms of industry standards. Only time will tell what the FDA will decide to do in terms of regulation, but in the meantime, it is your responsibility as a consumer to do your proper research:

  • To talk to individuals who have already tried the product you are thinking about buying (there’s no trust like some good old peer-recommendation-based trust)

  • Don’t be shy –ask for a formal certificate of analysis (SOA) and for help in reading it if you are not experienced.

  • Don’t expect overnight miracles. It can take some time for the oil’s effect to kick in, and, sometimes, you’d have to try a few types of products until you land success.

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