McConnell Pressures FDA to Craft CBD Rules

McConnell continues to champion the nation’s hemp industry, this time by urging the FDA to more quickly take action.

The senator who played a pivotal role in the effort to federally legalize hemp and its derivatives is now putting pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite its crafting of the rules and regulations on hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this week introduced language that would require the FDA to issue temporary regulations to allow the hemp industry to move forward with more certainty. He hopes to get the language inserted into a congressional spending bill as an amendment.

FDA announced in July that it would expedite its work to address rules and regulations on CBD and would release a progress report by early fall. Full development and implementation of rules, the agency claims, would take an estimated two years.

Several lawmakers have urged federal agencies to more quickly clarify CBD regulations.

McConnell’s solution is for the FDA to issue a temporary policy. His language would require that the agency submit a report to Congress within 90 days detailing its approach to developing CBD regulations. Within 120 days, the FDA would have to submit a formal policy of “enforcement discretion,” which would apply until more permanent regulations were completed.

The draft proposal also urges the FDA to ensure that regulations facilitate rather than discourage efforts to research CBD.

McConnell’s CBD legislative language is scheduled for review by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture on Thursday. If approved by the full committee, it will be sent to the Senate floor.

Reactions to McConnell’s Proposal

The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a hemp trade organization, celebrated McConnell’s actions.

“In the short run, the McConnell language would help lift the current regulatory cloud that’s been discouraging financial institutions to work with CBD companies, and that’s encouraged some local government officials to suggest that CBD is illegal in their state,” U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in a statement. “In the long run, it would set forward a fair and expeditious path for hemp CBD products to be formally recognized as safe and legal as a matter of federal law.”

The legislative language was also praised by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) since hemp is a booming industry in his home state.

“You might note that this year in Oregon, the hemp industry may well be a billion dollar crop, and that is an incredible addition to income for our agricultural community,” he said.

New Market Issues

Hemp and hemp-derived CBD were legalized at the federal level last December with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Approximately 1 in 7 Americans now use CBD, and the market is on track to reach $20 billion by 2024.

The hemp and CBD industry remains largely unregulated, however, with consumers unsure of the quality of many CBD products.

The industry lacks manufacturing and testing standards. Additionally, some CBD makers have made egregious claims about the compound’s effects. Many CBD manufacturers have difficulty finding banks willing to do business with them, although that trend seems to be changing.

McConnell championed last year’s Farm Bill. The long-time senator represents Kentucky, where hemp has become a major cash crop. While a backer of hemp, McConnell remains opposed to the legalization of cannabis, calling it “hemp’s illicit cousin.”

By definition, hemp must contain less than .3 percent THC, the psychoactive chemical compound which enables cannabis users to experience psychoactive properties. Thus, consuming hemp foods or hemp-derived CBD oil products doesn’t elicit euphoric effects.

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