As complaints have continued to grow in recent months about the FDA’s slowness in establishing a reasonable and comprehensive regulatory regime for cannabis, CBD and related products, the agency has been actively working to find ways to improve its research and data collection efforts.
Last week we learned that one of the initiatives brought up was…read what the Stones said on Reddit.
This is a shorthand description of what the FDA wants, but it’s also accurate. It might “seem strange,” as news site Crucible Merry Jane put it, but it’s not like it doesn’t make sense.
Scrolling Reddit is a small part of the Food and Drug Administration’s new cannabis-derived product data acceleration plan, which was released last week without much fanfare. The plan is to gather information on which the FDA will base its regulatory approach, which the agency has been working on since the legalization of cannabis as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Since then, the market for hemp-derived products – especially CBD – has mushroomed. It is almost completely disorganized. Street vendors have spread CBD fly by night.
CBD is known to have some healing properties, such as relieving certain types of seizures. This is really its only fully proven medicinal use, but there are strong indications that it can relieve a number of other ailments, such as pain, insomnia, and anxiety. Researchers are finally starting to delve into CBD, now that it’s completely legal to do so, but it will be a few years before we know the full scope of its benefits – and possibly – its risks. Until then, it’s the Wild West.
CBD oil can be purchased everywhere, from the counter at your local gas station to e-cigarette stores to a large number of online merchants. Besides the cannabis from which CBD is derived, it is added to foods, beverages, cosmetics, pet foods, and all kinds of other products. Thanks to the lack of regulation, buyers often have no idea what they are really getting. Products often do not contain what is promised on the label.
Other than sending occasional warning letters to a handful of wayward CBD sellers, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t done much. This is largely because without a solid set of data to work from, there just isn’t much of it can Act. Legal cannabis and CBD companies are calling for more regulation. Several recently welcomed new legislation in California that will finally allow – and regulate – hemp-derived products legally in the state. But until the Feds intervene, skeevy vendors will continue to operate in California and across the country.
As the FDA dryly stated in announcing its research plan, “The market for hemp-derived products continues to outpace growth in science and our understanding of the public health effects of these products.”
While the agency’s plan will rely largely on industry reports and scientific research, it will also, essentially, include browsing the web. That is, looking at social media sites like Reddit to find out what consumers are saying about these products, in order to spot issues that might not be easily picked up across traditional systems.
CBD isn’t the only product the Food and Drug Administration will monitor. Other emerging cannabis derivatives, such as CBN and cannabis-derived THC such as Delta-8, will also be included. Thanks to a legal loophole, a huge market has emerged for delta-8 THC – which, although usually derived from hemp CBD, can get people high, and is freely available from online merchants. State governments are cracking down on Delta 8, and the Food and Drug Administration itself, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has issued a Delta 8 safety warning in light of some reports of illness and injury.
Advocates of marijuana reform note that there is one effective way to curb such problems: for the federal government to legalize cannabis. Until then, Californians’ best bet is to get their CBD products from licensed cannabis dispensaries, where all products are tested for safety and label accuracy. “We strongly recommend that consumers stick to state-regulated products that consist of natural cannabis ingredients,” said David Gieringer, California NORML coordinator.