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The legal status of CBD products is in considerable flux at the moment, as hemp production is legal nationwide, but states and the FDA are playing catchup to create a regulatory framework around the industry.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is an extract from the cannabis plant that has gained tremendous popularity in recent years because of its alleged ability to treat a variety of ailments, symptoms and psychological issues with minimal side effects. It can currently be purchased almost anywhere, from the internet to farmers markets, vape shops and gas stations, and soon even at CVS and Walgreens.

But these products are largely unregulated at the moment due to slow action by the Food and Drug Administration and evolving state law positions, leaving the legal status of CBD products somewhat up in the air.

Many states have adopted new laws to allow for the sale of CBD products, so long as they are derived from the hemp plant (one variety of cannabis) and contain a minimal amount of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana (another variety of cannabis). And while the federal government has legalized hemp and its derivatives, the FDA hasn’t updated its regulations to allow for the broad marketing and sale of CBD products.

The FDA is contemplating a regulatory change following a public hearing they conducted on May 31, 2019, though any new rules will likely put parameters on how CBD products can be marketed, labeled and sold.

To date, the FDA appears largely concerned with companies who market CBD products to consumers by making unsubstantiated therapeutic claims about their effectiveness. Recently the FDA sent a warning letter to Curaleaf, one of the country’s leading CBD suppliers, due to that company’s online statements that CBD can help treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even breast cancer.

While CBD may actually be providing relief to many people, the FDA still considers claims about CBD’s therapeutic properties to be problematic.

Market innovation and consumer demand have gotten out in front of the regulators who soon may be trying to “put the toothpaste back in the tube.” Demand is at an all-time high for CBD products and the projections are very optimistic for that industry’s growth over the next 5 years. People are looking for alternatives to prescription medications and now even the big-box pharmacies are responding to the demand.

The path to operating a sustainable business in this industry begins with a phone call to a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the murky and quickly-changing waters around hemp cultivation, processing and CBD product marketing. Contact us before you take the leap.

McLaughlin, PC specializes in helping businesses start up and operate in highly regulated industries. If you’re considering or currently running a hemp- or CBD-based business, please contact us or give us a call at (601) 487-4550.

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