FDA Wages Regulatory War on CBD
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took swift regulatory action that has left many medical marijuana activists and producers with their heads spinning. Put simply, the FDA has determined that cannabidiol (CBD) can no longer be marketed as a dietary supplement. The scope of these new regulations is broad and hard-hitting, with many medical marijuana activists worried that this shift could effectively cripple a rapidly growing medical marijuana movement. To fully understand this issue, it’s critical to know why CBD is so important in the first place, and what exactly the new FDA regulations mean in action.
The Importance of CBD
CBD is a cornerstone of the growing medical marijuana movement. In states with medical and recreational marijuana programs on the books, small and large-scale producers are clamoring to find creative new ways to produce and market CBD extracts in different edible forms. Despite a severe lack of government funding, CBD has been found to work better than pharmaceutical grade alternatives for reducing nausea, combating anxiety, and more.
While most people are familiar with THC as the main component of marijuana, CBD is an appealing medical alternative because it offers effective symptom relief without any psychoactive side effects that are often associated with THC. For this reason a variety of candies, baked goods and other dietary supplements containing CBD have hit the markets in medical marijuana friendly states, much of the time to raving reviews. Despite all this progress, however, the new FDA regulations threaten the use of CBD in edible forms and, more broadly, natural dietary supplements as a whole.
Understanding the FDA’s Move:
The Language of Regulation and Its Consequences
These new FDA regulations are ironic, to say the least. As any seasoned medical marijuana activist will tell you, the FDA has long posed an obstacle to comprehensive medical marijuana reform in the United States. The FDA, along with countless other governmental agencies, have systematically attempted to belittle medical marijuana’s potentials as an alternative to pharmaceutical grade medicines though funding cuts and misinformation campaigns. Given this colorful history, it’s almost laughable that the new FDA regulation hinges on CBD being “investigated as a new drug,” as per the FDA’s own language.
But isn’t it a good thing that the FDA is finally investigating CBD as a new drug? Not quite. In fact, in granting CBD this investigation status, the FDA has effectively handed over CBD production and research rights to big pharmaceutical companies, the same people who work so diligently to lobby against medical marijuana. Indeed, now that CBD is officially being “investigated” as a new drug, it can no longer be marketed as a dietary supplement, putting the work and livelihoods of countless CBD-extract producers in direct peril.
The FDA has wasted no time sending eight warning letters to producers of CBD dietary supplements citing impermissible health claims and violations of regulation due to CBD’s new status as “under investigation.” This news is troubling not only for medical marijuana patients and activists, but also for advocates of natural supplements across the board.
Indeed, the FDA’s new regulatory line of attack sets an unsettling precedent: if the FDA or big pharmaceuticals view a natural supplement as too much of a threat to their profit margins, the FDA can simply put that supplement under “investigative” status and effectively ban its production. While this new regulatory assault may provide advocates, patients, and activists a formidable hurdle, we’ve never been one to shy away from a fight. Now it is crucial that the voices in favor of expanded medical marijuana research are louder than ever.