|Watch the exchange here.
Full Committee Ranking Member Glenn Thompson (R-PA) additionally bemoaned that the “FDA is missing in action” and that he hopes the committee can rectify that in the remaining months of Congress, especially given the testimonies noting the frustration of waiting for the FDA.
Both Commissioner Quarles and Wang expressed to the committee that while the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growth and sale of hemp, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acted timely in establishing rules for production, the inaction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD continues to negatively impact the industry.
“The hemp industry has been severely hampered by the slowness of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a regulatory pathway for hemp-derived cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD),” said Commissioner Quarles. “Without clear direction from FDA regarding products containing hemp-derived CBD, large retailers will not carry the products and many business leaders are reluctant to move forward with the development and manufacture of CBD-related products. That reluctance, in turn, has dampened industry demand for harvested hemp material.”
“In passing the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress made clear its intent to support the production and sale of hemp and hemp derivatives such as CBD. Thousands of U.S. growers planted hemp in response, with farming for CBD representing most of all hemp acreage,” said Wang. “However, public statements by FDA officials stating that it is unlawful to sell ingestible hemp-derived CBD products have taken their toll on the industry. CBD commerce and investment have been chilled due to continued inaction at the federal level, impairing economic opportunity for American farmers.”
In his testimony, Wang continued to point out the risks to public health and safety caused by unregulated CBD products on the market, in addition to the proliferation of hemp products being sold and marketed as intoxicating.
“Farmers are not the only ones who are being crushed by this regulatory uncertainty. Consumers are also impacted. Bad actors are selling products without appropriate safeguards and misleading consumers with false label claims,” he said. Further, some struggling farmers and businesses have pivoted to market intoxicating products such as Delta-8 THC, prompting FDA and CDC warnings that they pose significant consumer health and safety risks, particularly for minors. A clear regulatory pathway for CBD would not only relieve the economic pressure that is leading to this product shift, but it would also help ensure products do not contain intoxicating hemp ingredients.
Wang encouraged committee members to incorporate language into the 2023 Farm Bill found in H.R. 841 that would regulate CBD and other non-intoxicating hemp derivatives as dietary supplements, in addition to the provisions within Rep. Chellie Pingree’s Hemp Advancement Act, which among other important things, would take necessary steps to limit the hemp product pathway to only non-intoxicating compounds. Quarles also suggested the consideration of several key provisions within the Hemp Advancement Act, including the removal of the requirement for testing labs to register with the DEA and an increase on total THC limits for unprocessed hemp material from 0.3% to 1.0%.
“Should Congress consider revising the federal definition of hemp plants, we urge it to raise the THC threshold from 0.3% to 1.0%,” Quarles said. “At the same time, it would be appropriate for the new 1.0% limit to include not only delta-9 THC, but every other THC isomer which could have an intoxicating effect on consumers, including without limitation synthetically created delta-8, delta- 10, delta-7, HHC, and others. Embracing a “total THC” standard instead of a “delta-9 THC only” standard will establish a threshold which better reflects the material’s true intoxicating potential.”
Commissioner Quarles closed predicting that, “in the coming years we will see modest increases in the number of acres planted, at least until FDA provides the regulatory pathways for products containing CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids.” Wang stated that he believes “regulatory clarity for CBD will help create the positive momentum required to see the U.S. once again become the international leader in industrial hemp.”