No Regulatory Oversight for CBD — A Risk for Consumers and Companies

Posted: Monday, April 5, 2021 by Global Food Safety Resource

By Kim Stuck

CBD products are widely unregulated when it comes to quality assurance, quality management, and baseline food safety. Many companies may believe they are doing everything necessary to keep products safe, but without regulations in place to guide them or the qualified personnel in place to implement those regulations, they can’t protect consumers on their own. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the company, and unless you are a food safety expert, knowing what is needed to make a safe product is a difficult task. Regulations exist to ensure a baseline to follow. Having a regulating body to ensure that those guidelines are being upheld is key to our overall safety.

Let’s talk in more detail about consumer health and safety. There are several layers that are involved in the regulation of wholesale food, restaurants, and cannabis products. The first line of defense is your local health department (city or county), then your state health department, and residing over all of these is the FDA at a federal level. There are some areas such as dairy and meat that the USDA resides over, but when it comes to hemp the USDA is involved in the cultivation aspect of the industry and the FDA oversees all extraction facilities, processing facilities, manufacturing facilities.

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Many local and state health departments aren’t regulating CBD. When it comes to the THC industry; about 70% of THC edibles, tinctures, oils, and more on the shelves in dispensaries have not seen a health inspector ever. It is even worse when it comes to the hemp industry. Hemp has been federally legal since 2018 and the FDA still hasn’t released any guidance or regulation to the industry. Thus, making all CBD products on shelves unseen by any public health authority, unless local health departments have decided to regulate, and those are far and few. To someone with a background in food safety and public health like myself, this is alarming.

The FDA needs to release regulations as soon as possible to prevent something terrible from happening to a consumer, but it is also on the company owners to realize the risk of not having food safety procedures in place and do something to mitigate their risk. CBD products claiming 10mg of CBD should have 10mg of CBD, and as news outlets have shown many times this is not always the case. When you don’t have regulation, it causes all kinds of issues and opens up opportunities for bad players to take advantage of consumers.

The FDA hasn’t given any good reason for the lack of regulation. I was a cannabis health inspector in Denver, and they were one of the only jurisdictions regulating CBD production. I have clients in the CBD industry that I speak to everyday and they are very concerned by the lack of regulation because they need guidance. They complain that they are doing all of these extra things in order to bring a safe product to market and others aren’t doing anything. Due to this lack of regulation the safety of CBD products sold to the pubic simply isn’t addressed.

My hope is that ethical action outcomes in the cannabis industry will improve the industry as whole and allow it to thrive. It will also diminish bias and create a space for cannabis normalization in society to take place. Cannabis workers should be treated the same way as all other industry workers. They should be protected from their employers and deserve to have a place that they feel safe working at. The same goes for consumers, I believe most people go into a dispensary and truly believe that all of these products would not have made it on the shelf if they weren’t perfectly safe. The hard truth of it is that this gap in regulation could potentially put more black eyes on the industry and cause even more bias against it.

About the Author:

Kimberly Stuck was the first Marijuana Specialist for a public health authority in the United States. Conducting inspections, licensing, pesticide investigations, writing press releases, conducting recalls, shelf stability and CBD approvals, she’s done it all. The Denver industry called her “weed-whacker” primarily because of Cannabis/product disposals she conducted due to non-compliance. She now owns Allay Consulting and helps the industry create safe products and stay compliant with all laws and regulations.

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