Last week, US President Donald Trump signed a new—and quite large—farm bill that designates hemp as an agricultural cash crop. This will provide hemp (and legal cannabis) farmers benefits similar to traditional farmers: the ability to purchase crop insurance, apply for business loans and grants, and write off business expenses. But while this new bill could offer some great promise to farm owners and farm workers, one of the most important aspects of legalizing hemp still has a bit of a climb to make.
You see, hemp contains cannabidiol, or CBD oil. CBD oils have grown in popularity over the past few years, particularly as an ingredient in lotions, powders, tinctures, and even foods. CBD is the non-psychoactive compound found in hemp, which is a close relative of the cannabis plant. Hemp is low in THC (the psychoactive chemical of cannabis), and the fiber is very strong, which is what makes the plant such an important potential cash crop.
But while CBD oils have been allowed across many industries, their legality is another question. As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration has distributed warning letters to some companies who have been making health claims about the benefits of CBD.
Indeed, following the bill signing in Washington on Thursday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated the FDA’s position that CBD is, in fact, a drug ingredient. That means it is actually illegal to add it to food products or to use it as component of health products without first receiving FDA approval.
In his statement, Gottleib wrote: “Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk,” because these products have not been verified effective or safe.
At the same time, the FDA maintains that specific parts of the hemp plant are safe to use as ingredients in food. Actually, the statement lists three ingredients derived from the hemp plant that are safe as foods and do not require additional approvals (as long as those who market the products do not claim they possess disease treatment functions). These hemp-derived ingredients include hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil. Still, the stance on CBD continues to disappoint advocates of hemp (and cannabis).