On August 26, 2019, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a press release announcing “it is moving forward to facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for marijuana in the United States.” This announcement comes in the midst of a growing demand for marijuana for medical and scientific research. Several years ago, in an August 11, 2016, press release, DEA first announced its intention to “expand… the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers” because “only one entity was authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi.” Since that announcement, 33 entities have applied to DEA for a marijuana manufacturer registration. However, the approval process was stalled during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ term in office, and to date no new applications have been approved. Meanwhile, the number of entities registered by DEA to conduct research on marijuana, marijuana extracts or marijuana derivatives has jumped from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019. Thus, while demand for marijuana for research purposes has increased sharply, the number of suppliers has remained stagnant.
At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) public hearing on May 31, 2019 (read more about the hearing), over 100 people presented to a panel of FDA stakeholders and to over 500 attendees. Last week, FDA stated in a post that it recognizes the “significant public interest in these products, for therapeutic purposes and otherwise” but reiterated that “there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of many of these products.”
The good news for the industry is that FDA “recognize[s] the need to be clear and open about where things stand, and about the efficient and science-based way in which we are moving forward,” including “being transparent and up-front” as they continue to collect data and information on CBD. FDA is taking an “Agency-wide, integrated, and collaborative approach” to regulating products made from CBD and is exploring potential pathways to market for CBD products. However, FDA still grapples with how to balance the desire for widespread availability of CBD products with the desire to preserve incentives for research and drug development of CBD products.
The cannabis industry is the next frontier, growing rapidly and becoming one of the highest grossing industries in the country. The problem is, through no fault of its own, it is also the “wild west” of industries in many ways operating without guidance or regulation from the federal agencies that have jurisdiction of its products.
On May 31, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing to allow stakeholders to share their experiences and challenges with cannabis or products containing cannabis-derived compounds. For this hearing, FDA requested information, scientific data, and stakeholders’ views on the safety of CBD-containing and cannabis-derived products. FDA hoped to obtain input on possible strategies that will allow for lawful marketing of CBD-containing and cannabis-derived products in a predictable and efficient manner, while still providing incentives for drug development with CBD and cannabis-derived compounds. Over 100 academic, industry, medical, and consumer stakeholders spoke or gave presentations at the hearing to a packed audience of about 500 attendees. In addition, over 1300 written comments have been posted to the FDA’s public docket FDA-2019-N-1482 for this hearing.
The hearing opened with remarks from Acting Commissioner Dr. Norman Sharpless. As expected, he made no new announcements about FDA’s current thinking about regulating products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. He did restate the FDA’s current position that CBD and THC cannot lawfully be added to a food or dietary supplement and that FDA does not have a policy of enforcement discretion with respect to these products.
To read the full text of this article written by Duane Morris attorneys Rick Ball and Carolyn Alenci, please visit the Food and Drug Law Institute website.
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.
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.
With the enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill), hemp-derived CBD appeared to be on the table for marketing all across the country. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) press release issued that same day put a hold on the jubilation, stating that FDA considered any and all cannabis-containing or cannabis-derived products as drug products and not food or dietary supplements, regardless of whether the CBD was hemp-derived.
On April 2, 2019, departing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement about FDA’s next steps to advance a regulatory pathway for cannabis-containing and cannabis-derived products. At the same time FDA updated its cannabis-containing products and cannabis-derived products Q&A. It is clear that, at this point, FDA has not changed its position.