For consumers, the widespread availability of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) is old news. But for those in the cannabis industry—and in particular, those monitoring applicable regulatory developments—the state of CBD remains largely in flux and continues to be marred by uncertainty.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retained its regulatory authority over products derived from hemp, including CBD incorporated into products it traditionally regulates, such as food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. Unfortunately for the industry, FDA has yet to propose or issue formal regulations concerning the manufacture, distribution, or sale of such products. At the same time, FDA has issued numerous warning letters to producers and retailers incorporating CBD into products operating in the complex gray area between state and federal law. Nevertheless, recent events occurring across all three federal branches of government may reflect an impetus for change in FDA’s approach to CBD products.
Last week, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration published its current thinking on the research and approval process for cannabis-related drugs. The publication, which among other things recognizes the “increasing interest in the potential utility of cannabis for a variety of medical conditions,” contains critical information for businesses and consumers in the cannabis market—including those wishing to develop new cannabis-related drugs.
Duane Morris associate Kelly Bonner shares legal insight on CBD products and services in the January issue of DaySpa magazine.
From the publication:
Consider the source. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana, which have different definitions in U.S. law and are subject to different statutory and regulatory requirements. Hemp-derived CBD products are not illegal to sell and possess under federal law, as long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana has more than 0.3 percent THC, and is a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Get proof. Given the current lack of federal testing requirements for CBD products, it can be difficult to ensure that those purchased from third-party vendors contain no more than the permitted level of THC. So it’s extremely important that spas get anything containing CBD from a trustworthy supplier who can verify ingredients, confirm THC levels with third-party labs and/or provide certifi cates of analysis.
Act locally. While the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the federal ban on the commercial cultivation of hemp and derivatives that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, the ability to manufacture, market and sell CBD products is still heavily regulated at the state level, and changing rapidly.
Make no promises. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to a number of CBD companies that have touted their products as having certain health benefi ts in their promotional materials and on packaging or websites. Spas should ensure that any products or services offered don’t come with false or misleading claims.
Handle with care. Although research into the risks of CBD use is ongoing, the FDA has noted potential adverse health effects linked to the use of cannabis products containing THC by pregnant or lactating women. Even though CBD topicals typically contain very low levels of THC, spas should be up front with clients about potential risks.
One day after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, a published study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that more than 20% of High School seniors in the U.S. reported vaping THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana) in 2019.
According to the study, 20.8% of 12th graders reported marijuana vaping in the past 12 months, while 14% reported marijuana vaping in the past 30 days. (These figures, in 2018, were 13.1%, and 7.5%, respectively.) According to the report, the absolute increases from 2018 to 2019 in 12th graders who reported vaping marijuana within the previous 30 days were “the second largest … ever tracked by Monitoring the Future for any substance in its 45-year history[,]” only outpaced by the increase in nicotine vaping from 2017 to 2018.
Other age groups showed increases in THC vaping as well; the percentage of 10th graders who reported marijuana vaping in the past 12 months increased from 12.4% in 2018 to 19.4% in 2019 and the percentage of 10th graders who reported marijuana vaping in the past 30 days increased from 7% in 2018 to 12.6% in 2019. Moreover, the percentage of 8th graders who reported vaping marijuana in the past 12 months increased from 4.4% in 2018 to 7% in 2019; for use in the past 30 days, the percentage increased from 2.6% to 3.9% over the same time period.
Based on the results of the just-released study, Judge Guirola’s opinion–in which the court held that the delegation of authority to the FDA under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was not unconstitutional–could be afforded renewed significance. Both the federal court’s order and the NIH-funded study documenting the rise in THC vaping among adolescent come in the midst of heightened scrutiny of e-cigarette and vaping products generally, in light of the widely reported lung-related health issues stemming from use of certain vaping products.
Given the new data from the NIH-funded study and the FDA’s recently confirmed regulatory authority over the products alleged to be causing the lung-related illnesses, it appears likely that calls for regulators to scrutinize and crack down on the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products will only grow.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill passed in December 2018, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and thus legalizing it under federal law, consumer goods containing the hemp-derivative cannabidiol (CBD) have become exceptionally popular. With that growing popularity among consumers has come increased scrutiny by federal regulators whose mission is consumer safety and protection, such as the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission, and now by the plaintiffs’ bar, which files consumer class actions based on advertising. As the recent spate of warning letters and consumer class actions demonstrate, hemp-derived CBD product manufacturers and others in the supply chain for those products have to be mindful of the claims they make to consumers about their products.
Duane Morris Partner Frederick Ball is quoted in the Agri-Pulse article “Regulatory Uncertainty Hangs Over Production of Industrial Hemp.”
Nearly a year after the 2018 farm bill legalized industrial hemp production, the business community continues to seek answers to questions about testing and marketing of products derived from the crop, the commercial potential of which has sparked interest throughout the country. […]
Rick Ball, a lawyer with Duane Morris in Boston, said on the sidelines of the FDLI meeting that he has “no clue” when FDA might take action.
Ball said regulatory confusion is stoked in some cases by different rules in different states. In Massachusetts, for example, farmers were left holding their hemp after the state followed FDA and said CBD cannot be used in foods or dietary supplements or marketed with health claims.
“They lost a huge market for their product,” Ball said. […]
Duane Morris partner Neville M. Bilimoria is quoted in the Law360 article, “CBD Rules In Limbo As FDA Grapples With New Cannabis Era.”
Hemp may have been legalized less than a year ago, but CBD derived from it is already on its way to becoming a multibillion-dollar industry. However, sales of everything from CBD gummies to lattes are occurring in a legal gray area as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration struggles with regulating the largely unstudied ingredient. […]
“This is a watershed year for the FDA and its coming to grips with the increasing demand from the consumer public over marijuana, cannabis, CBD, hemp. It’s trying to catch up to what the consumers are touting as being therapeutic uses for CBD and THC,” Mr. Bilimoria said. “It’s basically saying, ‘Wait, everybody slow down. We’re the FDA. We rely on science before we can approve any uses and regulate any uses of cannabis or CBD.'” […]
Mr. Bilimoria said he can’t blame the FDA for “taking it slow,” but said doing so is frustrating when CBD is already all over store shelves. […]
To read the full article, visit the Law360 website (subscription required).
Despite recent bipartisan calls on the FDA to regulate hemp-derived CBD products, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration appears to be adhering to the status quo, at least with respect to issuing warning letters to companies deemed noncompliant with existing regulations. Case in point: on September 18, 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter (posted to the FDA’s website last week) to Alternative Laboratories, a dietary supplement manufacturer based in Naples, Florida.
According to the letter, the FDA conducted an inspection of Alternative’s dietary supplement manufacturing facility over five days in May and June; the inspection focused on the adequacy of labels for certain products manufactured and distributed by the company.
The letter focuses on Alternative’s allegedly impermissible representation of 2-amino-5 methylheptane and Octodrine (DMHA) as a dietary ingredient in certain products. It also calls attention to the fact that Alternative’s product label for CBD oil distributed under the “Green Roads” brand name runs afoul of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) Act in that the product “cannot be a dietary supplement because … [the] FDA has concluded based on available evidence that CBD products are excluded from the dietary supplement definition under” the FD&C Act.
To support its contention that CBD products cannot be dietary supplements as defined by federal law, the FDA notes in its warning letter to Alternative that “CBD is the active ingredient in the approved drug product Epidiolex,” designed to treat certain rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Further, the FDA stresses that significant clinical research investigations concerning the use of CBD have been made public, including investigations related to Epidiolex and Sativex, a drug for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS) that has been approved for use in 25 countries (outside the U.S.) and for which the drug manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, plans to seek FDA approval.
The fact that warning letters keep coming–from both the FDA and the FTC–signifies that although there may be a groundswell of public demand for regulatory reform and clarity on the issue of CBD products, the federal regulatory agencies appear to be staying the course. As such, companies operating in the space should remain vigilant and adhere to a compliance policy that reflects–for now–the reality of current regulations and restrictions.
The past week has shown the challenges that the cannabis industry supply chain—manufacturers, processors, distributors and dispensaries—faces, as regulators target claims relating to the health benefits of CBD and media outlets report, without any scientific evidence, that cannabis vaping may be linked to lung illnesses, and, as of the issuing of this Alert, the Trump administration is reported to be poised to ban flavored nicotine vaping. These kinds of issues could spur claims against cannabis industry participants for consumer fraud, personal injury and products liability, and heighten the scrutiny of cannabis products by federal and state regulators.
On September 10, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had sent warning letters to three unidentified businesses “that sell oils, tinctures, capsules, ‘gummies,’ and creams” containing hemp-derived CBD, concerning health-related claims about the benefits of their CBD products. Although the FTC did not release the warning letters or identify the recipients, the FTC’s press release announcing the warning letters explained that the letters were issued to reinforce that “it is illegal to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims.”
On July 22, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to Curaleaf with regard to Curaleaf’s “CBD Lotion,” “CBD Pain-Relief Patch,” “CBD Tincture,” and “CBD Disposable Vape.” The Warning Letter explains FDA’s view that Curaleaf’s CBD products are effectively “unapproved new and misbranded human drug products” because the claims Curaleaf has made about them on Curaleaf’s website and social media accounts demonstrate “they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or intended to affect the structure or any function of the body,” but Curaleaf has not obtained prior approval from the FDA to market them as such. The Warning Letter also explains the FDA’s view that the subject products are not “dietary supplements” because (i) CBD has already been approved as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (epidiolex), (ii) CBD was not marketed as a dietary supplement or a conventional food prior to such FDA approval of CBD as an API; and (iii) the subject products are not “intended for ingestion,” which is a requirement of a dietary supplement. The FDA also warned about Curaleaf’s products with respect to animals, which I have not summarized. The FDA provided Curaleaf 15 days to establish a corrective action plan and to report such plan to the FDA. The Warning Letter demonstrates the FDA is actively monitoring CBD manufacturer websites and social media for over the line claims, and that CBD manufacturers need to follow the FDA’s guidance given the unsettled regulatory structure with respect to CBD.