Is It Time to Start Regulating the CBD Industry?

Washington legalized industrial hemp by way of the 2018 Farm Bill signed into law by then president Donald Trump. Since then, we have seen an explosion in the CBD industry. No longer encumbered by having to import hemp or CBD from outside the country, manufacturers are now able to make their products much more easily and cheaply. More importantly, they are able to do so without a lengthy list of burdensome regulations holding them back.

A recent survey among both manufacturers and consumers revealed that despite the industry’s efforts at maintaining transparency, some 92% of U.S. consumers are unaware that CBD is largely unregulated. The most onerous regulation the industry must adhere to relates to THC content. For industrial hemp and CBD products to be legal under federal law, they can contain no more than 0.3% THC by volume.

Just about everything else is on the table, at least at the federal level. Some states are a bit more restrictive in their attempts to control CBD. But as is the case with most state regulations, the rules differ from one state to the next. This leads to an inevitable question: is it time to start regulating CBD?

CBD Is a Cannabinoid

At the heart of the legalization, question is CBD’s status as a cannabinoid. It is one of more than a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Most of the CBD produced in this country comes from industrial hemp. However, it is not the only cannabinoid CBD manufacturers deal with.

Manufacturers are always experimenting with different cannabinoid profiles to develop new products. The fact that THC is the only cannabis cannabinoid currently regulated under federal law gives them a big advantage. They can experiment with all the other cannabinoids to their heart’s content. They just cannot allow their products to contain more than 0.3% THC.

This sounds completely reasonable. However, there is a loophole. In most states, manufacturers are only required to test for Delta-9 THC. Delta-9 is the form of THC that is illegal under federal law. But guess what? Manufacturers can manipulate Delta-9 to create the Delta-8 isomer. That is a problem.

Getting High on CBD

Delta-9 THC is regulated because it gets users high. Even though CBD is a cannabinoid, it doesn’t result in a high. Therein lies the difference between the two. But what about Delta-8? Well, it can get users high too. Users say the high is not quite the same as the one produced by Delta-9, but a high is a high.

What makes all this interesting is that manufacturers are not required to test for Delta-8. They do not have to certify that their products don’t contain the isomer, either. They can indiscriminately add Delta-8 to legal CBD products, thereby allowing consumers to get high without having to actually use marijuana or Delta-9 THC.

Questions About CBD Extraction

Another issue in the unregulated CBD industry is CBD extraction. According to Houston-based CedarstoneIndustry, CO2 and solvent extraction are the two most commonly utilized methods. Solvent extraction utilizes something like ethanol or olive oil to dissolve plant material and recover cannabinoids and terpenes. CO2 extraction is self-explanatory.

So what’s the problem? Some people are concerned that solvent extraction leads to products that are not particularly healthy. Unfortunately, manufacturers are reticent to reveal their extraction methods. Those that utilize solvents don’t tend to openly reveal which solvents they use.

Right now, the CBD industry is able to operate relatively freely. There are few federal regulations weighing manufacturers and processors down. Is it time for a change? That is really up to the market to decide.