With gas stations, cafes and convenience stores now peddling unregulated cannabidiol, better known as CBD, state and federal lawmakers are pushing for increased research and regulation of the touted hemp derivative.
“CBD is brimming with potential to be a billion-dollar industry across New York state, but before that can happen, we need to be 100 percent sure we understand the ABC’s of CBD — its impact on human health, and how best to regulate it at the federal level,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, after announcing $2 million in the upcoming 2020 spending package for the FDAs involvement in CBD study and use guidelines.
Local CBD sellers support Schumer’s move.
Angel Isaac, the owner of Pretty Hot Mess in Glens Falls, said without regulation anybody can make and sell CBD.
“Somebody can make it in their kitchen and sell it. I know of a woman who is doing that and selling at farmers’ markets,” Isaac said, adding that consumer safety is at risk, not to mention that there is no guarantee there is any CBD is actually in the product. “Be careful what you buy and know where the hemp is coming from and stay away from sellers who don’t or won’t disclose their lab results.”
CBD is said to help with pain, depression, arthritis and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few maladies, CBD oil is available on Amazon for $40, in convenience stores for $10 and at herbal shops for $75 and up.
“The dangers are two-sided,” said Kaelan Castetter, CEO, Castetter Sustainability Group out of Binghamton. Currently, CSG works with 15 hemp growers in the region. “One for the industry and there will be lower consumer confidence and they might not be getting any CBD. It would also contain harmful contaminants and the consumer could have a bad experience.”
CBD sales soared after President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law last December, effectively legalizing hemp. As part of the farm bill, hemp was no longer classified as a Schedule I narcotic and it was removed from the list of controlled substances.
And while some still confuse CBD with marijuana because both come from the cannabis plant, CBD users cannot get high even though there is a small percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC in the hemp derivative.
The difference between being legal or illegal is in the amount of THC present in the plant. Legal hemp must have 0.3 percent or less THC. Over this threshold, it is classified as marijuana, still a Schedule I narcotic like heroin or methamphetamine.
On a state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also signed legislation this month, regulating the production and sale of hemp and hemp extract in New York.
“The hemp industry in New York is exploding and with that growth comes a responsibility to regulate the industry in a way that helps ensure its long-term viability and protects consumers,” Cuomo said in a release. “By establishing a regulatory framework for producing and selling hemp and hemp extract we can set the industry on a path to continued growth in a smart, safe way that empowers both farmers and consumers.”
According to Cuomo, the measure requires the hemp industry to test and label their products, protecting consumers from potential harm.
The legislation divides the regulatory responsibility between the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York Department of Health.
Ag and Markets will supervise hemp growers and the DOH will supervise hemp extracts. What this means for CBD sellers, they will have to register with the state.
“With the new bill, retailers will also have to get licenses,” said Castetter.
According to the state Ag and Markets, there are currently just under 500 people, businesses, and organizations spread across the state licensed to grow and process industrial hemp, with nearly 75 percent approved for cultivating and extracting CBD. There are many licensed Washington County hemp growers, for the complete list visit poststar.com.
New York has about 18,000 acres of land licensed for industrial hemp growing, with 14,000 designated for CBD cultivation and extraction. Furthermore, of New York’s 62 counties, 56 are home to industrial hemp farms and related growing operations.
Isaac works with several hemp farms that meet testing and quality criteria. One of her farms is Luce Farms in Bethel, Vermont.
“I love this farm. It is organic and they don’t grow anything other than CBD-rich hemp,” she said. “Every time we harvest a new batch, we have it tested through a third party FDA-approved lab and the testing information is available to customers.”
Additionally, she said, “the extraction method is important.”
Luce uses a CO2 extraction method, what many believe to be the most pure, safe and effective, proving a full spectrum CBD free of solvents.
Some extraction methods use toxic chemicals like hexane and butane (lighter fluid) to extract the CBD.
Local seller Cheri Lawson, owner of Adirondack Natural Foods in South Glens Falls said she thinks regulating CBD is wonderful.
“People are looking for relief,” she said, adding that depending on what they buy, they may not be getting CBD. “I have strict standards about what I carry.”
In January, the governor is hosting a hemp summit to further develop policies and priorities related to this burgeoning industry.
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