Amidst concerns on the federal and state levels about violations of FDA regulations regarding CBD products, efforts are being made to allocate more money in the upcoming fiscal year to further define and more stringently enforce CBD laws. President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, should he gain re-election and have the opportunity to present it to Congress, allocates an additional $5 million to the Food and Drug Administration specifically for further regulation and law enforcement pertaining to cannabis and cannabis-derived products. This is the first time that CBD has been mentioned in a federal budget proposal, which suggests that hemp and CBD may be buzzwords cropping up in Presidential debate topics alongside marijuana leading up to the election.
So where would it leave the future of CBD regulation if Trump is ousted from the White House? Democratic Presidential frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both support legalization of cannabis, with Sanders proposing to legalize within 100 days of his election to office. A historically outspoken proponent of the war on drugs, Joe Biden is sticking to a half-measure platform with a focus on decriminalization, allowing states to regulate hemp for themselves. Michael Bloomberg supports putting legalization in the hands of individual states, though he is personally opposed to legalization. Pete Buttigieg takes the side of veterans with PTSD who often use cannabis and its derivatives to deal with the aftermath of military service, advocating for the decriminalization of all controlled substances.
As hemp has yet to be a talking point for presidential candidates, overshadowed as it is by the larger topic of marijuana as a flashpoint for racial justice issues (as criminalization disproportionately affects people of color), what Americans can expect from future budgetary support should a Democrat win office is unclear. What is clear is that the time for comprehensive, consistent regulations and enforcement of cannabis laws on the part of the FDA is long overdue.
During his January 2020 testimony before the Subcommittee on Health, Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the U.S. House of Representatives, Douglas C. Throckmorton, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs at the FDA, highlighted the current illegality (per the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act) of interstate commerce of food with CBD additives. He also described in some detail concerns with current CBD marketing tactics that put consumers at risk, such as those products that claim to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s. Throckmorton also identified some particular concerns related to the potential negative health impacts of CBD use, such as liver damage, problematic drug interactions, male reproductive toxicity, and various ill side effects.
While studies of these impacts are still ongoing and inconclusive, the FDA is clearly intent on taking them, and the future of CBD in the U.S. market, seriously. Whether the President-elect of the United States, whoever he or she may be, manages to pass a budget that supports the FDA in its mission to ensure public safety in regards to CBD is, in many respects, for voters to decide.