Virginia sets stage for CBD in food, and smokable hemp

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Virginia has joined a growing number of U.S. states clearing the way for products that come from the leaves and flowers of industrial hemp. Two separate bills recently signed into law in the traditional tobacco state allow CBD in food and food supplements, and set rules for smokable hemp.

About 20 U.S. states have laws that specifically allow the sale of foods and food supplements infused with hemp extracts such as CBD, or allow their sale under certain guidelines and conditions.

Taming ‘Wild West’

The Virginia law will serve as a framework for state regulation of the processing of hemp-based food products, and set consumer safety, labeling and testing standards for hemp extracts.

The law “gives validity to the CBD industry,” Charlotte Wright, a Virginia hemp farmer told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “Right now, there is no testing required, no labeling, you have no idea what is in it. It’s like the Wild West.”

Quality issues

Stakeholders and state officials warn that CBD sold at gas stations and convenience stores often is mis-labeled regarding the volumes of CBD in the products, and could be contaminated. 

While the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill allows for the cultivating, processing and sales of hemp products by licensed entities, it is still illegal in the USA to add hemp derivatives such as CBD to food and dietary supplements, under U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules. 

Virginia officials said the new state law treats extracts as if they already have FDA approval, and that the state will begin to regulate the products under that assumption.

Smokable hemp rules

Among other basic rules governing smokable hemp in Virginia, consumers must be 21 years or older to buy the products, which are also approved for sale in vending machines.

Hemp advocates in Virginia see hemp as having the potential to lift the fortunes of state agriculture, as tobacco declines; hemp can also be added to the crop portfolios of struggling dairy and other farmers, state officials have suggested.

About 1,200 registered industrial hemp growers planted roughly 2,200 acres (809 hectares) of hemp in Virginia in 2019, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported, while 357 processor licenses are currently active.

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