All posts by Carolyn A. Alenci

FDA Holds Public Hearing on Cannabis

On Friday, May 31, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing to discuss scientific data and information about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. Acting Commissioner Sharpless made no new announcements about FDA’s current thinking about how it will regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. However, it was clear from the FDA panel’s questions to the various academic, industry, and other stakeholders that FDA is looking for as much data from as many sources as possible. In particular, FDA’s questions focused on age and youth restrictions, dose and route of administration and how they affect the safety of the products, adverse event reporting, and interactions between cannabis/cannabis-derived products and other drugs. In addition, FDA continued to inquire about whether deregulating cannabis and cannabis-derived products would affect the incentive for research on these products.

Industry stakeholders asked for a prompt, expedited, clear, and transparent regulatory framework for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived products. Specifically, industry sought clear definitions for terms like “full spectrum,” “broad spectrum,” “isolate,” and “THC-free.” Further, industry requested regulations on labeling, testing, good manufacturing practices, and track and trace for products. Many industry stakeholders asked FDA to look to the dietary supplement and food regulations already in place as a guideline for regulations on cannabis.

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Big News for the Organic Certification of Hemp

The public’s desire for organic products continues to grow. This is equally true for cannabis and hemp-derived products, especially where they are being used for medicinal purposes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued regulations setting out standards setting out specific requirements that must be met for an agricultural product to be labeled “organic”. In order to be able to include the USDA’s organic certified seal on a product’s packaging, a USDA-accredited certifying agency must verify that the product meets USDA’s regulations. This USDA certification provides many benefits, including, for example, premium prices for products. So why haven’t we seen many certifications for hemp products?

Back in 2016, the USDA, in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, issued a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp concerning the applicability of Federal law to industrial hemp programs after the 2014 Farm Bill, but the ability to gain organic certification for hemp products was unclear. The USDA also issued Instruction: Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp Production (updated in September 2018), which stated that industrial hemp produced in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill could be certified if it met all of the requirements of USDA’s organic regulations. The problem was that under the 2014 Farm Bill only certain parts of the hemp plant (e.g., the stalk and non-viable seeds) were permitted to seek organic certification. And, actually, some hemp seed products have received USDA organic certification.

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