“Action expresses priorities.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
[updated 2/9/2019] Maine has a big CBD problem. Last week, Maine’s Department of Health ordered all hemp derived CBD-infused edibles to be removed from store shelves.
This week, their State House filled with dozens of hemp growers, processors and supporters to protest the crackdown on consumable CBD products. This is a painful and financially devastating situation for all those affected. Not to mention the uncertainty for 1000s of Mainers who rely on their daily dose of hemp oil.
As reported in the Portland Press Herald, Maine’s Department of Health has ordered that consumable products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, must be removed from stores, even though they are derived from legal hemp. CBD salves and smoking products are exempt, and only medical cannabis dispensaries can market CBD oils and tinctures.
At least one Vermont (CBD) processor has been told by their customer in Maine to take back their Vermont products as a result of the crackdown. This is getting serious, and very close to home.
What's bugging Maine's Health Department is a Dec. 2018 FDA Press Announcement, stating that CBD is not a federally approved food additive or health supplement. Really? A 2018 World Health Organization report sends an entirely different message, that "No public health problems have been associated with CBD use."
If this were about 'consumer safety', well folks, we're talking about the natural extracts of a plant that humankind has been using safely for 10,000 years. FDA is seriously late in figuring this one out.
The same FDA press statement offers clues they might be trying to get their act together stating, "In view of the proliferation of products containing...cannabis-derived substances, the FDA will advance new steps to better define our public health obligations in this area". Okay, let's get on that!
A Congressional call and response
I reached out to Senator Leahy's office today. After speaking with Tom Berry, Sen. Leahy's Director of Ag policy in Vermont, I concluded there's a lot they, or we don't know right now about the FDA's next steps. Not for lack of trying.
For the Vermonters reading this, Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders, and Congressman Welch's offices are all coordinating on this issue. In the last 24 hours they have reached out (again) to their points of contact at FDA. They are speaking to state officials in Maine, sharing notes with other Senators' offices from Kentucky to Oregon. They're trying to get answers about how far FDA is going to push this.
FDA, for their part, has been largely unresponsive to requests for information from Senate leaders.
What Mr. Berry most wanted to convey was, "We're definitely concerned ... and we're working to have more information before the weekend."
(update: "more information" came the following day. Erica Campbell, Bernie's head of Ag Policy in Vermont, explained that the Vermont delegation (Leahy, Sanders, Welch) are drafting a joint statement to the FDA to incite them to sort this out quickly.
Other states with robust hemp programs are also penning joint congressional statements to FDA this week (KY, CO, OR...). It's a good time to let our congressional offices hear from us that we want them to engage with FDA on this.
We also heard from Cary Giguere, Vermont Agency of Agriculture's head of the Hemp Registry, that a conference call is scheduled for the week of Feb. 11. The call is with Vermont's Agency of Ag, the Vermont Congressional delegation and an FDA deputy to try to get some clarity on FDA's next steps.
Several states (not Vermont) influenced by FDA's Dec. 2018 Press Announcement, are justifying draconian actions against CBD products and suppliers. Instead of breaking up the supply of hemp for people using it every day for relief, shouldn't those state agencies taking actions against CBD be questioning FDA's "...public health obligations in this area."?
Giguere spoke to VTDigger on Feb. 8th, saying there’s “no chance” the Vermont Agency of Ag., which regulates hemp and its products, will take similar action (as Maine Health Dept. has against CBD sales).
Our members of Congress have staff who are happy to take your call. Your local elected representatives would love to hear from you.... and state Agencies, let's be sure we're communicating with each other.
This is a developing and dynamic situation. Stay engaged. Something Ms. Campbell said that stuck with me, "Call your Senator and Representative's office. Don't assume they already know, tell them you are concerned. It takes just a minute".
I'm Netaka, friends call me Tak ("tock"). I write from Vermont and curate Tak About Hemp.