Public health and safety may be at risk from unregulated products
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – As more states move to legalize the use of marijuana and other cannabis-related substances, state officials across the country are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move toward regulating the manufacturing and marketing of those products.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Thursday that he joined a coalition of attorneys general from 35 other states and the District of Columbia in urging the FDA to work with them in developing regulations to govern the fast-growing industry.
“As attorney general, it is my responsibility to protect Illinois consumers by enforcing our consumer protection laws,” Raoul said in a news release. “I urge the FDA to include state attorneys general in oversight over the emerging market of cannabis-derived products so we can continue to protect consumers and ensure they are not at risk of misleading advertising or exposed to products that could be harmful to their health.”
The FDA began taking public comments earlier this year, “to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.”
The decision to begin taking public comments was driven largely by the recent legalization of industrial hemp and its derivatives, including cannabidiol, or CBD, an oil that is said to have therapeutic value in treating a variety of medical conditions. Industrial hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
That, according to FDA, has led to an explosion of new CBD-related products on the market, many of which carry extraordinary claims about their ability to treat serious medical conditions such as cancer.
In legalizing hemp, however, Congress explicitly left the FDA in charge of regulating products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds such as CBD.
“FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the (Food Drug and Cosmetic) Act,” the agency said in its notice of public hearing.
In addition to legalizing hemp at the federal level, FDA has also taken notice of the fact that numerous states, including Illinois, have begun acting on their own to legalize full-strength marijuana under their state’s laws, even though marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.
Currently, 33 states have legalized marijuana for specific medical uses and 10 allow for recreational use by adults. Illinois will become the 11th state where recreational marijuana is legal when its new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.
With that has come another booming industry of companies selling marijuana and marijuana-infused “edible” products, none of which have undergone safety testing by the FDA.
“While the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including hemp and hemp-derived products, has increased dramatically in recent years, questions remain regarding the safety considerations raised by the widespread use of these products,” the agency said. “These questions could impact the approaches we consider taking in regulating the development and marketing of products.”
In their comments to FDA, Raoul and the other attorneys general urged the agency to cooperate with states in developing any new regulations.
“As the primary enforcers of our respective states’ consumer protection laws, we offer a unique perspective as to the new legalized market of certain cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD products,” they wrote in a letter dated July 16 to FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless. “We write to express our hope that the FDA continues to explore manufacturing, testing, and marketing best practices so that consumers are not at risk of misleading advertising or harm to their health from dangerous additives or undisclosed risks of use.”