Consumer Brands Association, which counts companies like Kellogg, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo as members, is pushing federal regulators to release rules to guide the nascent cannabidiol (CBD) industry because “a significant portion” of its membership is “CBD curious.”
In letters sent last week to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency tasked with crafting rules for CBD products, and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the sponsor of S.1698, the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act, the Association said that “federal engagement is critical to ensuring consumer safety” when it comes to CBD.
As Cannabis Wire has reported, the Association ramped up its efforts around CBD in early 2020, first by forming an in-house CBD advisory board and then by forming a Coalition for Smart CBD Regulation with other associations, like the National Association of Convenience Stores.
When asked what prompted the renewed calls to action, Jen Daulby, the Association’s senior vice president of government affairs, said that rising CBD consumption amid an ongoing lack of regulations makes it clear that perhaps it’s time that lawmakers “engage more on this issue.”
And, Daulby told Cannabis Wire, “we’re all just getting a little tired and disappointed.”
At the heart of the Consumer Brands Association’s push has been a request for a regulatory framework for CBD products, which are already being sold from coast to coast in a variety of stores and online.
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized cannabis plants with .3% THC or less, also known as hemp, which is abundant in CBD. Tasked with crafting regulations for CBD products, the FDA formally opened a public comment window on cannabis and cannabinoid-products in 2019, and extended it “indefinitely” in March 2020, after the first window closed in July 2019. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of CBD.)
“For the FDA to have gone this long and not weighed in with a framework and more studies around safety, and to have this unregulated market continue, really is what’s driving our increased engagement and our support for efforts on the Hill, because more and more, it looks like we’re going to have to have the legislative branch step in to get resolution on the issue,” Daulby continued.
Specifically, the Consumer Brands Association letter to the FDA asks the FDA to release an update on progress related to CBD rules. They’re also asking the FDA to provide technical assistance for members of Congress, because “there is growing bipartisan interest in finding workable solutions and ensuring the timely development of a federal regulatory framework for CBD products. The FDA should inform such discussions.” The group has asked the FDA to continue its enforcement efforts against bad actors, for example, those who spout misleading claims, and for the regulatory body to continue its review of the safety of CBD, which the FDA has said it is doing in order to determine how best to proceed with regulations. Finally, the Consumer Brands Association wants “a plan of action for transitioning currently marketed CBD-containing products to the new regulatory framework.”
Daulby said that while there are a few “experienced, iconic American food and beverage companies” involved in CBD, it “speaks to the market” and the lack of federal regulation that there aren’t more.
“I think that’s really why we’re so important in this debate right now and why it’s really important to get this right, because there’s a lot of value in having the experience of these companies involved,” Daulby said. “These companies are very hesitant to be in an unregulated industry because it’s against everything that we have been for, and the strength of our food safety in this country, and FDA and the framework that provides. And so if you think about it, it really is unprecedented to not have this association more involved in this very trendy issue.”
The Association also specifically supports S.1698, the Hemp Access and Consumer
Safety Act, a bill that Wyden introduced this spring. In particular, Association members have “taken notice of” a provision in Wyden’s S.1698 thatwould allow for CBD in food ingredients, said Mike Gruber, vice president of regulatory and government relations.
But, Gruber said, there’s almost a chicken and egg issue when it comes to gauging member interest in CBD-related products. Members of the Consumer Brands Association include a wide spectrum of companies, from the Campbell Soup Company and Target to Goya.
“We have been having regular meetings with members who are interested in this. And I know it’s a competitive issue,” Gruber said. “The challenge for trade associations is that you suspect that your companies are interested in these ingredients, but you don’t know, really, how much. They’re not going to talk with one another about what your company’s interest is in this marketplace. But there has been a robust discussion that’s been taking place, especially since this new Congress started, about CBD.”
Gruber further described “a significant portion” of their membership as “CBD curious,” and particularly in the beverage industry, with some in topicals.
But, some of their member companies appear to be more than “curious.” Association member Molson Coors Beverage Company is part of the national Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation group, for example, and is independently lobbying on cannabis. Another member, Amazon.com, is newly registered to lobby on cannabis, as Cannabis Wire was the first to report. And, Recess, an existing CBD beverage company, is a member, too.
The Association also released a report, and a poll, this month. The poll of 1,000 US adults, published in collaboration with Ipsos, found that consumers don’t know much about CBD. For example, when given a scale of 1 to 10, respondents rated their “knowledge of CBD” at 3.3, and nearly three in four (74%) “incorrectly assumed” that CBD products were federally regulated.