BOSTON – Stung by state officials’ recent pronouncements that have put the legality of hemp-derived CBD products in limbo, a coalition of hemp farmers is supporting a Braintree state representative’s bill intended to clarify the issue.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from the cannabis plant and is commonly extracted from hemp. The non-psychoactive component is said to deliver therapeutic benefits, such as reducing anxiety, without impairing the user. CBD products are not directly regulated by the state and many local health and police departments do not take action against retailers that carry the products.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources, which regulates the growing of hemp, last month issued guidance that effectively outlawed the sale of food products containing CBD, any product containing CBD that makes therapeutic claims, any product with hemp as a dietary supplement and any animal feed with hemp products.
In June, former Marijuana Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Cusack, D-Braintree, filed a bill that would declare CBD products “are not considered controlled substances or adulterants” and that food products containing CBD “are to be considered foods, not controlled substances or adulterated products,” and that would allow hemp-derived CBD products to be made and sold in Massachusetts. On Monday, Cusack’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Rules.
“This bill provides a good starting point to address the immediate concerns related to the recent (Department of Agricultural Resources) statement,” said Marty Dagoberto, policy director and outreach coordinator of the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter.
According to the MASS Hemp Coalition, more than 100 farmers are licensed to grow hemp in Massachusetts this year, and all but one grow hemp for CBD production.
The coalition said it will share its recommendations directly with Cusack and the Cannabis Policy Committee, but said it is focused on securing greater protections for local small businesses selling CBD products, which have to rely on interpretations by their local boards of health and face largely unregulated competition from online sellers.
“We need stronger protections for our retail and statewide industry immediately, without halting current progress towards finding an immediate solution through (Cusack’s bill),” Laura Beohner, co-founder and president of The Healing Rose, a CBD company based in Newburyport, said. “Some coalition members have already (been) impacted. We need a community-wide solution immediately to stop hurting our small local businesses, particularly our local retailers.”
The Department of Agricultural Resources guidance followed an opinion from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that CBD cannot be added to food and dietary supplements, and state Department of Public Health guidance also prohibits the sale of any product containing CBD oils derived from hemp.
Some products made from hemp – hemp seed, protein, clothing and other items made from hemp fiber – are approved for sale in Massachusetts.