Hemp CBD-laced food, drinks become legal

Despite being illegal, North Bay users of CBD-infused products packaged as food or beverage have long found them on retail shelves to help with sleep disorders and muscle aches.

But now they’re legal.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 45 on Oct. 6 to legalize food and beverages sold that contain cannabidiol under 0.3% of THC — which are psychoactive cannabis properties that give the user a high and derived from the hemp plant. As an urgency measure, it became effective immediately.

“It’s been a grey area, where we haven’t had clear guidance,” said Jacob Peters, the wellness coordinator at Oliver’s Market on Montecito Boulevard.

The Santa Rosa gourmet grocery store sells hemp CBD soft-gel and gummies as supplements, a product line that has experienced a surge in sales receipts since the pandemic flourished.

“The most common use has been for aches and pains, but with stress and lack of sleep, we’ve been seeing more growth here in the last six months,” Peters said. “And now, I think we’ll see more interest.”

Licensed cannabis dispensaries applaud the legislative action.

“We support CBD being normalized. It needs to be de-stigmatized,” said Lynette Shaw, owner of the CBC Marin Alliance, the oldest cannabis dispensary in the state.

Consumers, dispensaries and grocery store management aren’t the only interested parties.

The California Fuels & Convenience Alliance is a trade organization representing independent gas stations.

“We are very pleased to see the Legislature and the governor recognize and reform these laws which now directly benefit our members,” CFCA Executive Director Elizabeth Graham said in a statement.

“You can buy this everywhere,” California Cannabis Industry Association lobbyist Amy Jenkins said of the product line that can be found in lotions at salons and in beverages at convenience stores.

Jenkins said it took a while to drum up the “groundswell” support to make legal an activity that appeared to be already occurring.

“This has been a fight to get across the finish line,” Jenkins said.

This is despite the state long embracing cannabis as a legal substance. California legalized cannabis for adult, recreational use in 2016 by passing Proposition 64.

With the federal government banning marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, any progress to at least have the state with the largest market potential able to sell hemp CBD as a sanctioned ingredient in a variety of products was welcome news to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the advocacy group.

“This is going to be a huge boon for hemp growers,” Hemp Roundtable spokesman Jonathan Miller told the Business Journal.

The signing of the new law clears up the ambiguity of how the illegal practice would be enforced.

“Until the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 45, California adopted federal law regarding the use of cannabis products, including those derived from industrial hemp in food and cosmetics,” the state Public Health Department responded to a Business Journal inquiry, adding: “The federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD as an additive in food and cosmetics regardless of the source. Since the passage of AB 45, California does not regard industrial hemp-derived food and cosmetic products to be adulterated.”

The author of AB 45 recalled her surprise at finding out no law was on the books to allow for the sale of such goods.

“Yes, I was shocked,” Assemblywoman Cecilia M. Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters said.

“I’ve known for years they were illegal. I was amazed by how much the products were being sold,” she said.

She said when she raised the issue, merchants would say their attorneys said it was OK. .

“I’d say: ‘Maybe you need a new attorney,’” she said.

AB 45 makes the necessary distinction ingestible products do not fall within the “adulterated” category since they don’t impair a user. These products will now be legally regulated, labeled and tested to meet California government standards issued from the Department of Public Health.

Up to this point, the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill placed hemp in the agricultural product category, thus opening the door for growers to sell commercially. But the harvesting of the plants to use in food and beverage products was not addressed.

AB 45 was introduced about the time the Farm Bill passed and failed to make it through the California Legislature last year.

“It took a long time to get this bill done. But I’m excited about it now. It’s a consumer protection law as far as I’m concerned,” Aguiar-Curry said.

Indeed, CBD users represent a different demographic and market than marijuana enthusiasts seeking a high. Most are trying to cure an ailment, Aguiar-Curry’s Legislative Director Nora Lynn pointed out.

“Seniors don’t want to go to a head shop,” Lynn said.

<strong id="strong-c84ebe715ef06249249f0ea53390d635">Hemp acreage in full view</strong>

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Oct. 13 it mailed the first hemp acreage and production survey to 20,500 cultivators across the nation to collect information on how much land is being used to grow.

The Domestic Hemp Production Program established through the U.S. Farm Bill allows for the cultivation of hemp.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, biotech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 25 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, now a part of the Union Tribune in San Diego County, along with the Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. She graduated from Fullerton College. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com

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