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CBD Regulation In New York Remains In Limbo

Eric Risberg

The USDA released long awaited regulations on CBD this week that will provide more federal regulation of the growing of hemp plants, where CBD comes from. Meanwhile, in New York, a bill that would regulate the hemp extract is in limbo. The state legislature has approved it, but Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t acted on it yet. 

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Jen Metzger, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley, says she is hopeful that the governor will soon sign the bill that she sponsored to regulate CBD, or cannabidiol, a chemical extracted from the hemp plant. It contains only trace amounts of THC, the substance in cannabis that gets people high. Metzger told me, right now, it’s the Wild West when it comes to buying the product.

“Right now there is zero regulation of these products,” Metzger said.

The bill would require testing of CBD products that are sold, and establish labeling to certify that the product sold actually contains the substance, and some other additive. It would also set up guidelines for the state’s farmers to grow it, and share in the profits that come from the increasingly popular product.

Currently it is in a legal gray area. It is not a federal crime to sell the product, and some believe that the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill essentially legalized the product, because it permitted the sale of hemp that does not contain the psychoactive THC component. It is not legal to sell CBD in food or beverages. The New York City Health Department recently prevented restaurants and other eateries from selling CBD-laced food and drinks, saying the substance has not yet been deemed safe as a food additive. 

A mysterious illness related to THC and vaping has sickened thousands across the country and killed dozens. Metzger says CBD is usually not consumed by vaping, but she is concerned that without any standards, someone might get sick someday from using a product that claims to contain CBD, but might actually be something else.

“I think you should worry, there’s no quality standards here,” Metzger said.

CBD is said to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia, and could also help ease muscle aches and other ailments.

It is approved by the FDA for treating a rare, severe seizure disorder in children.

Metzger says there needs to be more study of the substance and its potential effects, good and bad.

Metzger, and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who both chair the agriculture committees in the respective houses, introduced the measure late in the 2019 legislative session, when it became clear that a more comprehensive bill that would also legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis was not going to win approval.

Cuomo is currently working with three other neighboring states to craft a comprehensive bill on cannabis use and vaping, which could be ready to vote on in 2020. Metzger says it still makes sense to regulate CBD before this year ends.

“There’s no need to wait for a broader cannabis bill,” Metzger said.

The governor’s office says that Cuomo is still reviewing the bill.

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.
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