FDA plans to reconsider the rules for using CBD as an ingredient

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Restaurants could get the go-ahead to incorporate CBD into their foods and beverages as the result of a comprehensive review announced Tuesday by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) of the regulations currently governing use of the cannabis derivative.

Although CBD is widely available in places ranging from health-food stores to gas stations, it is still technically banned for use as a food ingredient, as a handful of places discovered earlier this year. The health departments of places such as New York City alerted their local restaurant communities that CBD—short for cannabidiol, a component of cannabis that doesn’t get the user high—is still a controlled substance in the eyes of the FDA, and hence cannot be included in dishes without permission. Getting a green light for its use would require the same laborious effort that pharmaceutical companies undergo to bring a new drug to market.

The FDA acknowledged Tuesday that many businesses are confused about the guidelines for selling CBD products because an agriculture bill passed at the end of 2018 essentially legalized certain forms of cannabis, designating them as “hemp.”  Technically, the law legalized those plants, but CBD was still classified under earlier regulations as a substance under the stringent control of the FDA. 

To reset the rules, or at least clarify what is or is not permitted under current guidelines, the agency announced plans yesterday to reconsider how CBD is regulated.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement saying his charge would hold a public hearing on May 31to collect input from all stakeholders on how CBD use should be monitored. 

In the statement, he also announced that the FDA would form a “high-level internal agency working group” to determine how CBD could be marketed without risk to the public health.  

Until new regulations or laws are drafted to address the new realities of CBD use, the FDA will update its website to provide clearer guidelines on what is permitted under the current rules.

He also promised to discourage charlatans from making absurd and unfounded claims about the properties of CBD by providing them with written warnings.

“While the availability of CBD products in particular has increased dramatically in recent years, open questions remain regarding the safety considerations raised by their widespread use,” Gottlieb wrote. “It’s critical that we address these unanswered questions about CBD and other cannabis and cannabis-derived products to help inform the FDA’s regulatory oversight of these products.”


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