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Future Uncertain For Bill Regulating CBD In New York

Eric Risberg

A bill currently before Governor Andrew Cuomo would regulate the sale of CBD products in New York State, and set up new rules for the state’s growing hemp industry. Cuomo has not yet decided whether he’s going to sign it, potentially leaving what is now a legal gray area in limbo.

CBD, or cannabidiol, products seem to be for sale everywhere these days, in health food stores, grocery stores and pet stores.

“You can walk into gas station and get a CBD product,” said Senator Jen Metzger, the sponsor of a bill that the state Senate and Assembly have approved to regulate CBD, and the hemp growing industry in New York. 

Metzger says right now it’s impossible to tell whether you are purchasing a product that actually contains CBD, or not.

Assembly sponsor Donna Lupardo agrees. She says the governor needs to sign the bill, so that purchasers can be protected.

“We think consumers really deserve this,” said Lupardo. “And given the Wild West going on across the country, we owe it to them and to our growers to have high quality standards in place.” 

CBD is a chemical that exists in hemp plants. Unlike marijuana though, a person using it does not get high. That’s because CBD contains only trace amounts of THC, the substance that is responsible for the euphoria and altered moods associated with marijuana, says Lupardo.

“CBD is by no means something people are using to get one high,” said Lupardo. “They are using it either for a nutritional supplement or for potential medicinal purposes.”

CBD is credited with relieving stress, anxiety, insomnia muscle aches, and other ailments, including seizure disorders. Lupardo says those results have not yet been proven through testing, but she says the Pharmacy School at the State University of New York at Binghamton has begun some research.

CBD is legal, as long as it contains no more than .03% of THC. It is currently not technically legal to add CBD to a food or beverage product. The bill sets up a path to allowing that, but the process is complicated because it also involves the jurisdiction of local health departments.

The New York City Health Department earlier this year cracked down on restaurants and other eateries that were selling CBD laced food and drink, saying the substance has not yet been deemed safe as a food additive.   

The bill passed by the legislature would set up standards for growing the plants that produce CBD and create laboratory testing centers where the products could be certified. It would also require products to contain QR codes that link buyers to documents showing that the product complies with standards, describing the recommended dosage, and warning them to check with their doctor first if they have certain underlying medical conditions.

Senator Metzger says if the bill becomes law, someone buying a CBD product will know exactly what they are getting.

“So that consumers can be confident it’s the quality that they want and also that they are getting solid information about what the actual benefits are,” Metzger said.  

The measure is backed by the recently formed New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association. The group says products now are “rushed into the state with little oversight and raise health and safety concerns.” The group says farmers will benefit from a stable market with known requirements.

The legislature did not reach an agreement with Governor Cuomo on the CBD and hemp regulatory measure before they approved it in the final hours of the legislative session. The bill was approved after it became clear that a more comprehensive measure that included legalization of adult recreational marijuana had failed. Cuomo, one day after the session, said he needs more time to study it before he decides whether to sign it.

“Government 101, read the bill,” said Cuomo. “Before you support it.”

A spokesman for the governor, Jason Conwall, says the bill is still under review. Its sponsors say until it becomes law, it’s buyer beware for those who purchase CBD. 

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.