While addressing a Congressional panel, FDA chief Dr. Robert Califf admitted that the agency he heads hasn’t been as fast as stakeholders may want as it handles matters of creating regulatory pathways for different products, including cannabidiol, extracted from hemp. This is despite the legalization at a federal level of hemp as well as its derivatives several years ago.
He admitted that while things look the same as they were when hemp was legalized back in 2018, his agency now has more data because it has been doing plenty of research. He added that most of the funds allocated to the FDA on matters of CBD regulation had gone to studying potential risks associated with the use of the different forms of CBD and application methods.
Califf told the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that even if he was prepared to move ahead with finding ways to regulate CBD, it would be better if Congress gave the FDA additional powers on the matter beyond what it currently has. As a way of explaining what he meant, the commissioner observed that the current powers the FDA had in regulating foods on the one hand and drugs on the other hand are inadequate for this situation and something totally different (a new framework) would be required to get the needed regulations in place.
The FDA commissioner faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers on both sides of the political divide expressing their frustration about the agency’s inaction, which has resulted in widespread confusion among manufacturers and consumers.
Early this month, Rep. James Comer, a ranking GOP member of the House Oversight & Reform Committee, penned a letter to the chair of the committee requesting a sitting dedicated to holding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responsible for its failure to formulate the necessary regulations so that the CBD sector can be overseen by this agency.
Subcommittee members also probed the commissioner about his agency’s view about kratom. He said kratom has some worrying side effects, which was why the FDA had tightened import controls on this “controversial tree.” The members, including Rep. Mark Pocan, responded to his answers by saying NIDA had a different perspective on kratom and that the FDA should see what NIDA had on this plant.
Commenting about the responses of the FDA commissioner during the Thursday hearing, several cannabis advocacy groups were cautiously optimistic that Califf would steer the agency appropriately on matters of regulating CBD. For example, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable took some encouragement from Califf’s tone, which signaled that he was personally unhappy that nothing had been done to regulate CBD since hemp had become federally legal.
The entire cannabis sector would likely benefit if there were federal regulations creating markets that entities such as American Cannabis Partners could serve from one coast to the other.
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