FDA aims to evaluate regulatory pathways, safety of CBD, cannabis products

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FDA aims to evaluate regulatory pathways, safety of CBD, cannabis products

By Sandra Levy - 04/03/2019
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced a public hearing set for May 31, as well as a broader opportunity for written public comment, for stakeholders to share their experiences and challenges related to the safety of cannabis-containing and cannabis-derived products.

"The public hearing will give stakeholders an opportunity to provide the FDA with additional input relevant to the agency’s regulatory strategy related to existing products, as well as the lawful pathways by which appropriate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed, and how we can make these legal pathways more predictable and efficient. We hope to gain additional information and data for the FDA to consider with respect to products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

Interest in these products increased last December when Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known as the 2018 Farm Bill. This law established a new category of cannabis classified as “hemp” – defined as cannabis and cannabis derivatives with extremely low (no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis) concentrations of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it is no longer a controlled substance under federal law.

Gottlieb said the FDA is taking the following steps:

  • Formation of a high-level internal agency working group to explore potential pathways for dietary supplements and/or conventional foods containing CBD to be lawfully marketed; including a consideration of what statutory or regulatory changes might be needed and what the impact of such marketing would be on the public health.

  • Updates to its webpage with answers to frequently asked questions on this topic to help members of the public understand how the FDA’s requirements apply to these products.

  • The issuance of multiple warning letters to companies marketing CBD products with egregious and unfounded claims that are aimed at vulnerable populations.


The FDA also is interested in whether there are particular safety concerns it should be aware of. “For example, we’re seeking comments, data and information on a variety of topics including: what levels of cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds cause safety concerns; how the mode of delivery (e.g., ingestion, absorption, inhalation) affects the safety of, and exposure to, these compounds; how cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds interact with other substances such as drug ingredients; and other questions outlined in the hearing announcement,” said Gottlieb.

Additionally, the FDA is interested in how the incentives for, and the feasibility of, drug development with CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds would be affected if the commercial availability of products with these compounds, such as foods and dietary supplements, were to become significantly more widespread.

“We don’t want companies to forgo research that might support approval through the FDA’s drug review process, which could potentially lead to important safe and effective therapies. We also don’t want patients to forgo appropriate medical treatment by substituting unapproved products for approved medicines used to prevent, treat, mitigate or cure a particular disease or condition,” Gottlieb said.