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News Briefs March 05, 2019

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BY DR. LLOYD COVENS

Farm Bill Non-Progress Report

CBD and hemp companies hoping for post-Farm Bill clarity got a heavy dose of “we will get to it”–from expected long delays in pending review and rule-making at both the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture.  FDA administrator Scott Gottlieb told a Congressional committee that he will gather FDA experts to “provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD,” also committing to an April meeting to hear from industry stakeholders.  But Gottlieb hinted the process might take “years” to include clinical research on CBD safety, and he said he was open to having Congress address CBD-into-food access in a formal bill.

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“We are interested in hearing from stakeholders and talking to Congress on possible alternative approaches… [for a] predictable regulatory framework for regulating CBD products.”  Gottlieb called the process complex, noting, “We believe [CBD] does have therapeutic value and has been demonstrated,” he said, “but I will tell you this is not a straightforward process.”

At a separate Feb. 25 Congressional sub-committee, USDA head Sonny Perdue said he would not examine any newly-submitted (post-2018 Farm Bill) state hemp plans until his agency completes its own national hemp authorization plan.  That process won’t be done until fall, 2019, meaning the current state-based rules under the 2014 Farm Bill to remain in effect, and giving agricultural guidance to all states in the early-2020 time-frame.

While disappointed with the delay, VOTE HEMP wrote, “We are committed to ensuring that they are well-informed about the potential of this crop as well as the need for limited regulation. We want USDA to treat hemp like other crops wherever possible. There are many aspects that must be figured out including crop insurance, testing and how data will be shared between states/tribes and USDA.” The USDA said it will host a March 13th Farm Bill national webinar to hear from the industry and public on implementation.  USDA welcomes questions and informational requests at: FarmBill.Hemp@USDA.gov.

CORRECTION:  Last week, this column reported on a letter sent to the FDA from Congressional members seeking clarification on CBD legality for combining into foods. The lead author of the letter was Rep.  Chellie (not Charlie, as reported) Pingree, D- Maine.

New Hampshire Guv Threatens MJ Legalization Effort

While New Hampshire Republican Governor Charles Sununu has threatened to veto any MJ legalization bill ending up on his desk, vote-counters in the Granite State feel the potential for a House override appears promising. Other committee action in state legislatures considering legalization bills all have moved ahead in New Mexico, New Jersey and Vermont (for retail sales).  Additional activity for favorable RMJ bill passage remains alive in Illinois, Connecticut and Minnesota.

“New” New Frontier Data

A new 3000-person survey of cannabis users found the total growth in adult users was up by ten-million persons since 2009, when the estimated (prior-month users) count in the U.S. stood at 14.4Mil.  The study–released by New Frontier Data and MJ Freeway, which said it reviewed over a billion dollars in sales data, pointed to the continuing lower demand for flower, and the increased demand for vaping and concentrates.  NFD project lead John Kagia said new growth segments– like younger moms and older consumers — rely on the “discreet, non-smoking” aspects of edibles, concentrates and vaping options.

Analysis & Opinion: ICR Falters

Since first imagining a world-class global research facility at their inaugural April 2017 Institute of Cannabis Research conference (which featured legendary cannabis research pioneer Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University in Israel), the ICR has seen its 2019 schedule degenerate into a shell of its kick-off 2017 program– with virtually no international participation, no West Coast university interest, and a dearth of multi-disciplinary studies.  None of the originating planners of the 2017-2018 faculty (Tim McGettigan, Ron Kreminski, Jen Mullen) have been retained. Instead a new anti-cannabis college president is reluctantly overseeing ICR, and no business school or social aspects have been retained in an overly technical, botanical and science weekend.

Prior year research came from east and west coast universities, but the March 23-25 event is now made up of 70% from Colorado firms and colleges.  Prohibitionist Kevin Sabet of SMART will present, along with Dr. Mahmoud El Sohly, speaking on his role as director of the Ole Miss Pot Farm, the monopoly grower of NIH/FDA low-quality research cannabis.  GW Pharma/ GW Biosciences will send Alice Mead and Mark Bolton to explain “How Cannabis-Derived Medications Go Through the FDA Approval Process.”   A long-awaited plan to fund a national patient registry for long term studies into MMJ impacts has been promised to commence for months, but no kickoff date has been confirmed. ICR receives about $1.7Mil per year from the Colorado legislature for operations.  More information at
https://www.csupueblo.edu/institute-of-cannabis-research/2019-conference/program.html

Canadian Watch

Canopy Growth Corp. has again expanded its’ CBD footprint, this time signing TV host Martha Stewart to advise the company on CBD products, initially with pet CBD offerings.  Stewart’s Sequential Brands is expected to work on various topical, skincare and ingestible options, but it remained unclear if Stewart will be an on-media spokesperson.  Stewart and music icon Snoop Dogg are now in their second year presenting weekly, cannabis-touching cable TV show, “PotLuck Dinner,” on VH1.

Link-of-the-Week–The Farm Bill requires that states wishing to support hemp-growing submit a detailed plan for USDA review.  Thus far only Pennsylvania and Kentucky have submitted a plan, but the American Hemp Campaign has produced a “model plan” suggesting the best elements all state agencies should include.  See the report at: https://www.americanhempcampaign.org/policy.

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