FDA holds first public hearing on CBD – did the smoke clear?

A recent Food Dive article reports that more than 100 speakers appeared at the FDA’s first public hearing on CBD.  The crowd was comprised of government officials, lawyers, mothers, and retailers – and despite their different views of CBD, most agreed that FDA action needs to be taken soon.

Even with the meeting lasting approximately ten hours, there are many uncertainties, as it was only the first step in what will likely be a lengthy process to legitimately regulate CBD-laced foods and beverages. CBD products are infiltrating the market, and this is causing confusion about regulation.


•    Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner, says he still isn’t sure how safe cannabis is for humans.

•    A lawyer who focuses on FDA matters stated that the FDA can issue a policy statement saying if a company is marketing food or dietary supplements with compounds like CBD that is derived from hemp, which is now legal because of the federal Farm Bill, then they would not take action – giving manufacturers more regulatory certainty.

•    Sharpless said, that while CBD and THC cannot legally be added to food, the FDA can issue regulations creating exceptions.

•    The panel of FDA regulators listened to each of the speakers and requested evidence, data, and more information about dosages. The FDA is taking public comment until July 2.

•    The FDA assures it is going to work as quickly as possible to provide clarification – but this is a difficult task.

The Food Industry

•    Manufacturers, concerned about the infiltration of CBD products on the market, are requesting the FDA intervene and figure out how to regulate the ingredient in food.

•    Consumers are interested in cannabis/cannabis derivative laced food and beverage, personal care, and household products; therefore, there is a need for uniform regulatory framework protecting public health.

•    State and local laws are conflicting with the national regulations, requiring the FDA and other agencies to regulate the ingredient.


•    December 2018: Congress passed the Farm Bill, legalizing hemp.

•    The FDA sent out warning letters to some CBD companies that were making illegal health claims.

•    Smaller food and beverage companies rushed to put CBD products on the market.

•    Big food has been waiting for regulation, with the exception of Ben & Jerry’s who, the day before the FDA meeting, announced a plan to use CBD in ice cream.

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The Author

Robert Lewis

Robert Lewis

Robert F. Lewis focuses his practice on the laws governing alcohol industry members at all three tiers as well as tobacco, and other regulated products. Rob has accumulated over 25 years of experience in the alcohol industry including previously serving in law enforcement and as a special agent with the State of Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Rob’s experience includes working with foreign and domestic alcohol industry clients in a wide variety of issues including alcohol licensing and structuring of alcohol service operations, alcohol trade practice analysis and consulting, defending regulatory enforcement actions as well as state and federal investigations of alcohol industry members, administrative litigation, land use and zoning analysis and approval processes, and state and local government lobbying efforts. Rob has also served as an expert witness on matters relating to alcohol beverage law and administrative code provisions in Florida.

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