Senators ask the FDA to pick up its pace on regulative CBD products

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Lawmakers say the agency’s reaction time is ‘chronically slow’

CBD (cannabidiol-based oil) stores are popping up like flies, with nearly 300 expected to be in shopping malls by the end of 2019. With that in mind, a group of U.S. senators is pleading with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address these products before things get out of hand and consumers take a backseat to stores getting rich off the trend.

On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) held a press conference to say that he’s calling on the FDA to get ahead of the situation by laying out consumer protection guidelines so that CBD products can be lawfully marketed. 

Joining Blumenthal were Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Gillibrand was an early supporter of CBD products and part of a bipartisan congressional group behind the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, a motion to allow the medical use of marijuana, of which CBD products are a derivative.

Reining in illegitimate claims and products

Although CBD was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, the market has been flooded with a cornucopia of gummies, shampoos, teas, coffees, oils for pets, and even shampoos that promote hair growth. Blumenthal’s primary concern is that illegitimate claims about the products could potentially flourish, much like they do with other consumer trends. The lawmaker believes the FDA is in the best position to put a stop to that practice.

“What we need to do is stop the bad actors, rid the market of unsubstantiated and inaccurate health claims, make sure the good guys have a leveled playing field where truth and accuracy are valued and rewarded by consumers and by the regulatory framework,” Blumenthal said.

“Hemp growers, manufacturers, food producers and most important, consumers, all deserve a regulatory framework that will set rules for classification, labeling, marketing, quality and other important features so that we stop the Wild West claims and make available products that are truly helpful and beneficial to consumers,” he added. 

“The treatment of pain, anxiety, inflammation, other kinds of maladies may be aided by CBD and consumers deserve the benefits of those treatments but they also deserve to know the truth about the oils, lotions, gummies and other products that are out there.”

Blumenthal’s wish may have an angel in the wings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell has long been a hemp cheerleader given that Kentucky was a primary supplier of hemp to make rope for the Navy during World War II. 

The FDA needs to get the ball rolling

Timing is everything. CBD awareness is still relatively low, with only about 14 percent of adults in the U.S. saying they’re familiar with CBD products. If the FDA acts quickly, the potential for consumer harm could be reduced. However, Blumenthal, for one, is skeptical about the FDA’s reaction time. 

“Everybody’s interest is in the FDA doing its job and it has been lagging and laggard, and that’s why I’m demanding that in fact it do its job,” he said in a radio interview on WTIC. “The FDA is chronically slow.”

Yes, the FDA has been slow to react to potential consumer issues in the last few years, but maybe that’s changed. Lately, the agency has picked up the pace, including going after Curaleaf, a company that markets CBD cannabidiol-based products using “unsubstantiated” health claims. Just this week, the agency stepped up its warning to THC-vaping consumers about potentially-related lung ailments.

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