The cannabidiol (CBD) oil industry has a dark side. It’s long been dogged by accusations of being snake oil and dubious claims about its miraculous health properties. Many of these accusations stem from the lack of regulatory oversight. When there are no rules, it’s easy to make scientifically unsound claims and create definitions as it goes along.
The full-spectrum and broad-spectrum debate is one such example of vague, poorly defined, and often misapplied terminology hampering the product’s evolution.
With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) long overdue in releasing national guidelines, New York isn’t the only state to try its hand at better CBD regulation. But, it is the first to propose official definitions covering full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and more.
What is CBD Oil? New York Attempts to Define
On October 26th, 2020, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) launched its recommended hemp extract rules, which would finally bring the industry in line with similar consumer goods.
As per the October proposals, “the Federal government has not implemented a regulatory system to effectively control the quality of products on the market. In this absence, unscrupulous actors have entered the market and sold cannabinoid hemp products that do not meet the quality control standards common in the established supplement, food, and cannabis industries.”
Among other proposals, this release attempts to finally mandate CBD labeling. The DOH submitted the following definitions for commonly applied/misapplied terms already in use on CBD consumer goods:
“Any form of cannabinoid hemp product consisting of the flower, buds, leaves, or stems of the hemp plant, including trimmings thereof, intended for retail sale to consumers without further processing.”
It’s worth noting that New York prohibited the sale of hemp flower to consumers as a smokable product.
Cannabinoid extracts derived from hemp and that contain “cannabinoids, aromatics, essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, protein, chlorophyll, flavonoids, or terpenes.”
Full extracts may not be reformulated nor mixed with isolates or distillates.
Concentrated hemp extracts containing multiple cannabinoids, which have had the THC removed through a process known as THC remediation.
A hemp concentrate where a segment of cannabinoids from an initial extraction are selectively concentrated through heating and cooling, with all impurities removed”
A hemp extraction comprises more than 95 percent of a single cannabinoid
New York may be the first state to layout the official definitions within the CBD industry, but it surely won’t be the last. The labeling dilemma has plagued the sector since its inception. Unscrupulous producers have played a game of pick and choose based on what consumers wanted to hear, not based on the product’s formulation or extraction process.
Stepping Into the Void Left by Federal Regulators
New York’s proposal comes at a disruptive time for the hemp extraction sector. For decades, hemp extractors and CBD manufacturers have operated in a grey area, dancing around federal restrictions from the FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Hemp extracts and CBD oils were legal, essentially because these products were explicitly missing in federal legislation.
But, with exponential growth and unrivaled consumer demand, CBD hasn’t escaped the attention of federal regulation. Although the wheels of change are painfully slow within these departments, each has attempted to expand and regulate the industry’s explosion. The DEA and the USDA have recently made adjustments to CBD regulation, but when it comes to the FDA (arguably the department that counts for consumer goods), it has failed to reach any conclusions.
It’s been a make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach for as long as the industry has been in operation. Which has meant terms like full-spectrum and broad-spectrum have taken on a life of their own. Even if their initial use was between intermediate (non-consumer-facing) players, they are now universally slapped onto consumer products as the latest trend in CBD marketing. Unfortunately, most consumers wouldn’t be able to give you a science-based description of what a full spectrum means or why it’s different from a broad spectrum. Perhaps more troubling, the same ignorance is true for people selling CBD products.
In an interview for Hemp Industry Daily, Joy Beckerman, a New York-based hemp consultant, called the new state proposals “courageous and empowering.” Although this may be a bit of a stretch, it doesn’t take away from the state’s leadership role in hemp and CBD regulation. Beckerman firmly believes that these new rules could become a template for national regulation. As she explained, “They understand that in the absence of the FDA taking the reins and creating a framework, that somebody is going to have to sort of lead the way.” As the nation eagerly awaits more CBD policy updates from the FDA, it will be fascinating to see what federal definitions and regulations roll out.