Over the past six months, we have seen the CBD industry skyrocket to become one of the hottest trends on the market. However, without any oversight by the federal government, harsh and dangerous chemicals may be finding its way into our daily lives.

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In December 2018, the United States Congress passed what is known as the Farm Bill, which made it legal and easier for hemp products to be sold across the country. This lead to the boom in CBD and cannabidiol products that have made their way into our food, beauty products and pretty much everything else.

However, the farm bill did not make CBD a nationally regulated product, meaning the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, does not oversee or regulate anything that goes into CBD. To some that may not seem like a big deal, but the FDA has been one of the most crucial organizations in American history. Without it, we’d effectively still be living one hundred years in the past.

Pipette with CBD oil isolated on white background iStock / MysteryShot
In December 2018, a tip lead researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), to look at a line of CBD e-cigarettes. The VCU found that these e-cigarettes contained some chemicals other than CBD. Looking at seven products from Diamond CBD, VCU researchers published a study that found dextromethorphan (DXM), a chemical found in cough medicine that has a history of being potentially dangerous and has a high risk for addiction.

They also found 5F-ADB, a synthetic cannabinoid that is found in K2, or spice, in their products. (In case you didn’t know, synthetic marijuana is often one of the drugs that cause people to become “zombies” and is definitely not something you should try.) Among the conclusions found in the study, the team at VCU say that “the analysis of these products illustrates the potential quality control issues that can occur in an unregulated industry.”

Not only were these two chemicals not advertised on the product, but the creator doesn’t even have to legally put them on the box. In fact, the product information for the products on the website even says they are “100% natural, lab tested, CBD extracts” and do not contain synthetic chemicals and have “no indication that these products contained any other active substances.”

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Unlike cereal or milk, what goes into the final product does not need to be stated in the black and white box that you find on almost all food and medicine. That box comes from FDA rules and regulations, which CBD products don’t fall under.

FDA food and drug administration approval health pharmacy certification virus iStock / bakhtiar_zein
The FDA knows it needs to do something, as they have an open forum to discuss the product coming May 31. However, because CBD often falls in the same area as marijuana and the FDA is a federal program, the FDA has essentially cast out CBD and hasn’t done much with it.

However, regulation for CBD is a necessary hurdle that the FDA will need to get to as Sean Khalepari, the Regulatory Affairs Coordinator for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a group dedicated to medical marijuana, pointed out to The Stash.

“Without proper regulations, workers are at risk of inappropriate and unsafe exposure to toxic or otherwise hazardous chemicals (e.g., pesticides, solvents), and there may be an increased risk for workplace accidents, such as explosions caused by improper handling of solvents or failure to appropriately inspect and maintain extraction equipment,” Khalepari said.

“Improper storage, handling, or disposal of farm or processing materials (e.g., fuel, pesticides, solvents) could lead to environmental degradation. Cannabis and cannabis products may be contaminated with pesticides and residual solvents, heavy metals, and mold or microbes that could pose a risk to patients and consumers, especially immunocompromised individuals.”

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The FDA has come out somewhat against CBD, mostly advising people to be careful with it as they have not looked into extensively, which only a few states, like New York, have said they will advise. Most states have begun to try and set up their own rules and regulations, however, that means that each state is different, which can cause confusion.

Consumer Protection paper sign iStock / Ildo-Frazao
Khalepari believes that “A broad range of regulations will be needed, but from a patient and consumer safety standpoint, the most important regulations are those that relate to cultivation, processing, testing, labeling, and distribution. Smart, strong regulations that mandate quality assurance and control measures, laboratory testing, and product recall protocols help to ensure that cannabis and cannabis products are produced, packaged, stored, transported, and sold according to standards that have been established to protect the health and safety of workers, patients, and consumers as well as the environment.”

Many advocates also believe that federal legalization across the board for marijuana will be the true key to CBD, and then THC, products to be regulated for the public. However, in the near future, statements by FDA commissioners have lead many to prepare for a limit to be placed on CBD in products.

When announcing FDA hearings on the chemical, former-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that there are “open questions about whether some threshold level of CBD could be allowed in foods without undermining the drug approval process or diminishing commercial incentives for further clinical study of the relevant drug substance.”

Some are proposing to limit the number of CBD that can go in food compared to health products, to try and bolster research into the chemical, while others are suggesting treating CBD like THC, which is how Canada does it. However, the bottom line is that without regulation, no one can really move. Until legalization and regulation is firmly set up, there cannot be any change, or growth.