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National News - January 2019 - by Meghan Smith

Hemp Is Officially Legal in the U.S.

President Trump recently signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which will allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp, containing less than 0.3 percent THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis). For decades hemp has been roped into cannabis prohibition, despite its many uses and lack of psychoactive components. It should be noted that this is not total legalization, and that various restrictions will still continue to apply. Hemp will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, but potential hemp growers must still submit their cultivation plans to the U.S Department of Agriculture. Under this bill, hemp crops will be considered covered under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, which means that in the event a cultivator experiences crop loss, they will be entitled to insurance coverage in the same way that farmers for other legal agriculture products are.

While Hemp is explicitly removed from the list of federally banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, sadly the same is not necessarily true for CBD as a whole. In regards to this, John Hudak of the Brookings Institute wote “It is true that section 12619 of the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, but the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. As I have noted elsewhere on this blog CBD generally remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. The Farm Bill ensures that any cannabinoid—a set of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant—that is derived from hemp will be legal, if and only if that hemp is produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower. All other cannabinoids, produced in any other setting, remain a Schedule I substance under federal law and are thus illegal. (The one exception is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products that have been approved by FDA, which currently includes one drug: GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex.)”

FDA Announces Plans to Facilitate More CBD Products

In response to the president’s signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Federal Drug Administration released a lengthy press release regarding CBD, including a pledge to pursue pathways that would allow businesses to legally market products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. The federal agency also stressed however t retains the right to regulate products containing cannabis and would take enforcement action against businesses that make unsanctioned claims about the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) products, including those derived from hemp, or attempt to introduce such products into interstate commerce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated “In view of the proliferation of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived substances, the FDA will advance new steps to better define our public health obligations in this area, We’ll also continue to closely scrutinize products that could pose risks to consumers.” Gottlieb further stated that because components of marijuana such as THC and CBD are “active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs” such as the epilepsy medication Epidiolex, it remains illegal to “introduce drug ingredients like these into the food supply, or to market them as dietary supplements.”

Gottlieb also recognized that certain foods derived from cannabis do not contain regulated cannabinoids, and used the opportunity to also announce in the press release that the FDA has completed evaluations of “hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein and hemp seed oil” and determined that the products are safe based on “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, standards. He wrote; “Therefore, these products can be legally marketed in human foods for these uses without food additive approval, provided they comply with all other requirements and do not make disease treatment claims,”

In a separate press release, regarding this determination the FDA further explained; “The GRAS notices are for three different hemp seed-derived ingredients. The GRAS conclusions can apply to ingredients from other companies, if they are manufactured in a way that is consistent with the notices and they meet the listed specifications. Some of the intended uses for these ingredients include adding them as source of protein, carbohydrates, oil, and other nutrients to beverages (juices, smoothies, protein drinks, plant-based alternatives to dairy products), soups, dips, spreads, sauces, dressings, plant-based alternatives to meat products, desserts, baked goods, cereals, snacks and nutrition bars. Products that contain any of these hemp seed-derived ingredients must declare them by name on the ingredient list.”

Amendment to Criminal Justice Reform Bill to Prevent Federal Prosecution in States with Legal Cannabis Fails

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, had hoped to get an amendment to the proposed First Step Act, which prevents federally insured banks from working with marijuana businesses, however Gardner along with other senators were blocked by a procedural maneuver from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gardner sought a unanimous consent for his amendment but was blocked by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who called the idea a “back door to legalization.”

After the amendment failed, Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine stated “We’re the opposite of feeling defeated. We’re feeling energized, We just had a U.S. senator, who is in a leadership position in his party, say on the floor of Congress that he’s not going to give up this fight.” Gardner plans to reintroduce the bill during the next congress, stating that “If we can get a vote on it, I feel very confident we can get it passed,”

Cannabis Costs Rising 

The Colorado department of revenue released updated average market rates for cannabis sales from retail cultivation centers to recreational pot shops. The rates were based on transactions that were tracked by the state’s marijuana enforcement division between August 1st and October 31st, during this time frame the average price per pound of cannabis flower rose approximately $25, and the price of trim rose by approximately $70 per pound, from the previous reporting period. Cannabis sales are subject to a 15 percent excise, so this price hike means that the state of Colorado will see a higher tax revenue for this reporting time.

The revenue department’s executive director, Mike Hartman said in a statement “The quarterly Average Market Rate update is just one of many examples of the Department of Revenue’s use of data in helping regulate the burgeoning cannabis industry. He further explained that the department sees the rates as “one of the important tools that the state uses to closely monitor supply, demand and pricing dynamics.”

Middle schoolers sent to hospital after fellow student shares cannabis candy 

5 children at a florida middle school were sent to the hospital after a fellow student brought 100 mg cannabis gummies to school and handed them out to 6 other students during gym class. The students reported stomach pain, dizziness and nausea, and the 12 year old student that handed them out is now facing felony charges for possessing and distributing marijuana. Medical Marijuana is legal in the state of Florida, however it is still unclear as to how the child came to be in possession of the gummies, as the child has given authorities multiple different stories. Authorities have also stated that the minor’s parents have been cooperative, and that there is no indication that they were involved. At this time the parent’s will not be facing any charges, however the investigation is ongoing.

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