Guest commentary: Let CBD to be marketed in dietary supplements and as food, beverage additives

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While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across Colorado, small businesses and their employees are paying a heavy price. Colorado has been hit hard with more than half a million people having submitted unemployment applications and thousands of bankruptcies filed since the pandemic began.

With so many industries absorbing the shock and strain of the financial crisis, public officials and leaders should seek every solution to help protect and lift small business owners. For some farmers and small business owners in Colorado, one simple solution exists, and it costs nothing.

Rather than a bailout from the federal government, what Colorado hemp farmers and small business owners need is for the federal government to take action and classify cannabidiol, better known as CBD derived from hemp, as a food additive or supplement.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from Schedule I controlled substances, making it a wholly legal agricultural commodity. However, the FDA still regulates its use in medicines and prohibits ingestibles from being sold.

There are two ways to remedy this. First, Congress has introduced HR 5587, which would allow FDA-regulated, hemp-derived CBD to be marketed in dietary supplements and as food and beverage additives. Several members of Congress have thrown their support behind such a measure.

The second path is for the FDA to take action. The regulatory body has a chance to stabilize and save small businesses as several companies in this industry across America have declared bankruptcy. Those companies, at least in part, blamed the FDA’s inaction on ingestibles for their decline. This one policy change would have
saved hundreds of jobs and kept revenue streaming into local restaurants, shops, stores and communities.

Either action would loosen restrictions on the marketing of CBD products and surely support the growth of hemp-derived CBD industry in 2020. The growth trajectory remains strong long-term including here in Colorado, where the industry already employs hundreds of workers. Yet it could be even greater if the FDA were to act. This
would allow companies like Walmart, Target and Kroger to get fully behind CBD products. Industry experts estimate the potential associated market with CBD edibles, beverages and other products could exceed $23 billion by 2023.

Another major benefit to federal action is CBD would be sold in a regulated manner with uniformity regarding labeling and potency. The industry applauds the recent decision by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for joining other states and allowing CBD in food despite federal prohibition. Yet without federal action, states will wind up with a
patchwork of laws and regulations potentially adding further confusion to the market and prohibiting the mainstream retailers from participating broadly in the category.

CBD is used by millions and widely considered safe. Oils, ointments and topicals are popular because they are natural occurring and are used for potential healing properties, including pain relief, inflammation and to fight anxiety, which is increasingly necessary as prescriptions for anti-anxiety and anti-depressants continue to spike during the pandemic.

There’s no reason why common-sense policy cannot prevail especially in a time of crisis. Colorado’s elected officials should urge the FDA to help the economy in Colorado, small business owners and farmers across America and allow CBD ingestibles into the marketplace.

It’s an easy win for us all at a very difficult time for the economy and does not require bailout dollars from the federal government.

Smoke Wallin is CEO of Vertical Wellness, a leading multi-national vertically integrated brand company in the hemp-based CBD industry.