The Overregulated Debacle of Hemp and CBD in Massachusetts

     Cannabidoil (CBD) is a non-intoxicating plant cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. Hemp derived CBD comes from a chemovariety of cannabis sativa that contains less than .3% THC. CBD is one of 113 cannabinoids that has been isolated in cannabis thus far. [1] It plays a role in promoting the bodies natural healing processes through regulating the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system within the body that aids in the overall balance and well-being in the central nervous system, immune system, and the periphery. [2] Through CBD’s therapeutic effects within the body, it has become revered as an important natural herbal therapy around the world. Reviewed research of CBD shows a favorable safety profile. [3]

     This is good news for those wanting to incorporate a natural herbal therapy into their health care routine with far less side effects than many pharmaceuticals. Some of CBD’s known therapeutic effects are as follows: anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, promotes bone healing, promotes alertness, anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, and immunomodulatory actions. [4] The anti-inflammatory aspect of CBD is an integral piece of its therapeutic action. Since disease and it’s symptoms stem from inflammation, CBD can lessen symptoms, flareups, and even aid in prevention.

     With the evergrowing list of positives on CBD, it’s frustrating that the Hemp Department of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has taken such a prohibitive and limited stance on CBD products derived from hemp.  Even though the Hemp Farm Bill of 2018 effectively legalized hemp and it’s derivatives including CBD, and removed it from federally illegal schedule 1 status, the Hemp Department issued policy guidance in July of 2019 that has put the MA hemp industry into a frenzy.

     According to the MA Hemp Policy Guidance Documents below, Hemp is now considered an agricultural commodity federally and at the state level, yet it’s certainly not treated like your average crop. The MA hemp department has the authority to open hemp derived CBD up for a wide variety of uses and to treat it like a commodity such as other herbs and their derivatives, but it has chosen to follow the FDA’s prohibitive lead instead.

“…With the passing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, referred to as the “2018 Farm Bill,” signed on December 20, 2018, federal law now treats hemp as an agricultural commodity. Previously, hemp was not distinguished from marijuana under federal law, except under limited circumstances. Effective with this change in law, hemp is now legally recognized as a separate crop, the cultivation of which falls under the jurisdiction of the Unites States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and state departments of agriculture, if approved by USDA. Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) retained its jurisdiction to address public health requirements for hemp-derived products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FFDCA”) and other related laws.
The FDA has recently issued a statement that limits the types of cannabis-derived (including hemp-derived) products that may be manufactured and sold to consumers. In particular, the FDA has prohibited any food or other consumable products containing the cannabinoid known as “CBD” from interstate commerce without its approval.1
Under state law, Sections 116 through 123 of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 128 assign the Department responsibility to regulate all activities related to hemp and industrial hemp within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The law directs the Department to administer a licensing and registration program for the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp and industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. More particularly, the law assigns the Department general oversight responsibility for approving the sale of hemp-derived products.

…APPROVED HEMP-DERIVED PRODUCTS
The following hemp-derived products are approved for sale in the Commonwealth pursuant to M.G.L. c. 128, Section 117(c) and under FDA and DPH guidance:
• Hemp seed
• Hemp seed oil
• Hulled hemp
• Hemp seed powder
• Hemp protein
• Clothing
• Building material
• Items made from hemp fiber
• Flower/plant from a Massachusetts licensed Grower to a Massachusetts licensed Grower or Processor

HEMP PRODUCTS NOT APPROVED FOR SALE
The following products are NOT approved for sale in the Commonwealth pursuant to M.G.L. c. 128, Section 117(c) and are likewise prohibited for sale under FDA and DPH guidance:
• Any food product containing CBD;
• Any product containing CBD derived from hemp that makes therapeutic/medicinal claims;
• Any product that contains hemp as dietary supplement;
• Animal feed that contains any hemp products;3
• Unprocessed or raw plant material, including the flower that is meant for end use by a consumer.” [5]

     CBD has favorable safety profile and obvious therapeutic qualities, making these prohibitive maneuvers by the Hemp Department nonsensical. People deserve the right to have full and legal access to Hemp and all of it’s derivatives including CBD, without the states interference. Hemp has been utilized by humans for thousands of years for industrial, agricultural, and medicinal purposes. Why the MA Hemp Department took such an anti-farming, anti-health and anti-revenue approach to non-intoxicating hemp is mind boggling. CBD is a billion dollar market and growing. Small local CBD based business and hemp license holders are now caught is a stalemate thanks to the MA Hemp Department.

     The hemp cat is effectively out of the bag, and people are getting hip to the value of hemp and CBD. Consumers will find a way to buy CBD either from the internet or elsewhere anyways. Just as alcohol and drug prohibitions don’t work, neither will these ridiculous prohibitive hemp policies. The free market and entrepreneurs should have all viable business opportunities available in the hemp market, especially now with the legalization of hemp. Hemp farmers, processors and retailers are now left scrambling and confused. Municipalities and their Boards of Health have the ultimate authority to either follow the Hemp department’s guidance or to not. The uncertainty surely has the MA market on edge.

     All is not lost however, as we have a very important hemp bill 4001 awaiting a vote by the Joint Commission on Cannabis Policy.  If passed the hemp bill will then have to go through the legislative process in the House and Senate, and ultimately get signed into law by Governor Baker.  https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4001.  Hemp bill 4001 would truly make all of hemp’s derivatives including CBD a commodity, much like parsley or oregano. Thankfully possessing, processing, and retailing CBD can not be considered criminal due to the passage of the Hemp Farm Bill. So far a few towns have activated bans, but no one is going to jail due to their activities. Please call and email your representatives and the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, and urge them to fight on behalf of our freedom to fully utilize hemp in all of its glory. Ask them to help get this bill passed, every call and email matters. The four members of Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy hold the power to stop this hemp madness. Tell them we need bill 4001 to pass, ask them to support small businesses and hemp farmers of MA by passing bill 4001.

Dave Rogers House Chair (617) 722-2637 Dave.Rogers@mahouse.go

Rady Mom Vice House Chair (617) 722-2637 Rady.Mom@mahouse.govSonia

Chang Diaz Senate Chair (617) 722-1673 Sonia.Chang-Diaz@masenate.gov

Patricia Jehlen Vice Senate Chair (617)722-1578 Patricia.Jehlne@masenate.gov

https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/J50/191

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