One big myth that exists is that the Farm Bill made CBD legal
Remember when the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law last December? It was widely hoped that the legal issues regarding industrial hemp and CBD products would finally be resolved for farmers, processors and retailers. Unfortunately, confusion continues.
The first instance of misinterpretation of the Farm Bill came on January 9th when four people were busted in Pawhuska, Oklahoma while transporting 18,000 pounds of CBD-rich hemp in a tractor-trailer from Kentucky. The shipment was bound for Panacea Life Sciences based in Louisville, Colorado, which produces CBD products.
Police claimed the truck ran a stop sign. Upon smelling the strong smell of cannabis, the four individuals involved in the shipment were charged with drug trafficking. Cops insisted that the hemp had to be tested to determine whether it was hemp or cannabis that had measurable amounts of THC.
It happened on again on January 24th, this time in Idaho. When a tractor-trailer pulled into the East Boise Point of Entry weigh station, it was inspected by Idaho State Police. Even though the trucker carried a bill of lading that listed its freight as hemp, a drug-sniffing dog “demonstrated a positive alert on the cargo,” cops said. The driver was charged with felony trafficking of cannabis.
The shipment of 6,701 pounds was being transported to Big Sky Scientific, based in Aurora, Colorado from Oregon. (Big Sky deals in CBD isolates, distillates and extraction.) Demonstrating law enforcement’s inability to make the distinction between hemp and smokeable cannabis, Idaho State Police director Col. Kedrick Wills bragged: “This is the largest Idaho State Police trafficking seizure of this type in any present-day trooper’s memory.”
Last year, state police seized a total of 2,131 pounds of cannabis in the entire year.
Both Panacea Life Sciences and Big Sky Scientific are suing the respective state governments, demanding their shipments be returned. The threat of mold and deterioration of the hemp is a genuine concern, which could cost the companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Although the Farm Bill clearly states, “no state or Indian tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products,” the arrests of shippers of hemp has CBD producers and wholesalers clamoring for clarification. Industrial hemp may be legal—the crop that’s grown for food, fuel and fiber—but the status of CBD remains confusing.
One big myth that exists is that the Farm Bill made CBD legal. Hemp-derived products may no longer be prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act, but the CBD cannabinoid has not actually been legalized.
Like THC, CBD remains illegal on the federal level. The Farm Bill allows cannabinoids to be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, state regulations and by a licensed grower. Cannabinoids produced in any other setting remain an illegal Schedule I substance under federal law, unless approved by the FDA. GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex is the only CBD product that’s been approved by FDA.
As with recreational cannabis, laws differ widely on the legal status of CBD. Several states have welcomed the new sector of the cannabis industry, enabling patients to take full advantage of CBD medicine. Some have medical restrictions on usage, while others have outlawed CBD products altogether.
How does a CBD company determine its path if its own state laws permit cultivation—along with federal law that permits the transportation of the crop—while another state outlaws CBD-rich hemp as no different from recreational cannabis and, consequently, seizes a shipment and presses charges against the transporter?
When the Farm Bill was passed, the FDA reminded CBD farmers and entrepreneurs that CBD had not been legalized. But the agency also promised to reassess its status in the near future. It’s desperately needed.