If you think California is out in front of the federal government in recognizing the benefits of cannabis, you’re only partly right.
This state was the first to legalize medical uses of cannabis, and 32 other states have since followed suit. California was also among the first to approve the recreational use of marijuana, even as the federal government continues to complicate the issue.
Yet in one area regulators in California cling to an obstructionist position even after the federal government has partly opened the door to a cannabis-based product that people have overwhelmingly embraced.
The enforcement actions by state and local regulators severely limits Californians’ access to a product that many consumers believe has substantial benefits for their overall wellness. They are disrupting manufacturers, retailers, and farmers, and are also putting the state’s agricultural industry at a disadvantage in pursuing a national market estimated to reach $20 billion annually in the next few years.
The product in question is cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Chances are you’ve heard of it. It is commonly used in lotions, oils, creams, gumdrops and other forms taken orally by those seeking its benefits
CBD is being talked about in workplaces, retirement communities, recreational and professional gyms, and just about anywhere people gather these days. As Forbes observed, “2018 was the year CBD was on everyone’s lips.” In fact, at one point last year Forbes reported that “CBD gummies” was No. 3 on Google’s list of most common searches.
2018 was also the year Congress removed CBD from the list of scheduled drugs and the FDA approved the use of CBD as a medicine in a drug to treat epilepsy. Further, the new federal farm bill also declared that “industrial hemp” — a plant that contains only trace amounts of cannabis’ psychoactive ingredient, THC — is a legal agricultural product, clearly excluding it from the federal definition of “marijuana.”
Ironically, even as the federal government has begun removing barriers to legal use of hemp-derived products, California is taking the opposite approach.
The state Department of Public Health continues to assert that CBD derived from hemp is illegal under California law, and has sanctioned raids against facilities manufacturing or warehousing CBD products.
This position has put California in an Alice-in-Wonderland world in which adult consumers can walk into a licensed marijuana dispensary and purchase all manner of recreational cannabis products, but they cannot legally purchase non-intoxicating hemp products that they believe can bring them calm and ease their pain. At the same time, Californians can order “hemp oil” products at any number of online retail sites, including Amazon.
To be sure, the status of CBD products remains complicated. More work needs to be done at the federal level, and states must develop their own regulatory frameworks.
In California, it’s time to end this Catch-22 situation. I’ve spoken to Governor Newsom about this and have met with his public health director. I anxiously await the opportunity to work cooperatively with the administration on this issue.
In the meantime, I believe the Legislature should act expeditiously to permanently eliminate confusion for California consumers, retailers and manufacturers. That’s why I’ve introduced Assembly Bill 228, which passed the Assembly last week, to place into law a clear statement that foods, beverages, and cosmetics cannot be banned solely on the basis that they contain CBD that is derived from industrial hemp.
Consumers are demanding CBD products and telling their friends of its benefits. With the most recent federal farm bill, hemp farmers can legally grow their crop and ship it in interstate commerce. Now is the time for California to make it easier for its citizens to access a non-intoxicating, plant-based product they want, and for state farmers to establish themselves in a fast-growing agricultural industry.
Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, represents a district spanning from Wine Country to the Sacramento Valley.
Opinion: On CBD, California’s cannabis laws stricter than the feds’