CBD derived from hemp – containing only trace amounts of the psychoactive element, THC – is now legal federally following the 2018 Farm Bill. But how will that impact the food and drink industry when it comes to cannabis infusions?
As cannabis legalization sweeps across North and South America, Europe and other parts of the world, a lot of uncomfortable questions are being asked about how legal cannabis works in practice. CBD, a compound in cannabis that offers no psychoactive effects but is considered medicinal if derived from hemp, is legal – sort of. But since CBD is technically classified as a pharmaceutical by the FDA, they want to oversee all cannabis or CBD-infused beverages and food.
In states where cannabis is now legal – either medically or recreationally – CBD Oils can be mixed into food or drink, but that has to be done at home or in private. Then, there are creams, lotions, and balms that have some type of CBD in them. These may or may not be prohibited in by the FDA, depending on their intended use. Confused? So is just about everybody.
There are also states that allow the sale of CBD-infused beverages even though it directly contradicts the FDA’s guidelines. Those caught selling CBD-infused foods or drinks can receive a fine if caught and possibly face further legal action if they continue.
You can find CBD in a wide range of food and drinks these days. Anything from CBD water, CBD cooking oils, CBD Chocolate, and CBD-infused wines are available. Guinness Brewing, one of the largest companies in the beverage sector, has already conducted talks with a few large cannabis firms in Canada to discuss potential cooperation.
A craft beer company under the Heineken umbrella called Lagunitas, has also recently launched a fizzy, beer-flavored beverage infused with THC and CBD. There are also several cannabis-infused wine-makers around; one of which is Cannavines in sunny California. Cannabis is coming to the food and beverage industries; it just remains to be seen who will regulate it and how.
While the FDA has set up some public hearings at the end of May where they’ll talk about the legality of CBD in food and beverages, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) also spoke out recently. They sent a message within the industry that CBD is not permitted inside alcoholic drinks at all, for now. The whole issue is so bogged down and complex, one wonders whether the smoke will ever clear following the smog of more than 80 years of cannabis prohibition.
With all that said, the cannabis legalization trend seems to be like an unstoppable locomotive if recent trends are anything to go by. That trend will reach the food and beverage industries; it’s only a matter of time and a lot of cutting of red tape.
As cannabis legalization grows and gains steam, the food and beverage industries want to be as well positioned as possible, to be ready for the inevitable demand that’s just around the corner. Just the cannabis beverage market alone is estimated to reach $1.4 billion in the United States by 2024.
Until then, the FDA is talking about it, the Federal government is debating it and the innovators out there are preparing for it. The financial and employment implications of legal CBD and other cannabis products, if recent media speculation and reports are correct, are set to be record-breaking, even if you go by the most conservative estimates. Let’s see what the FDA come up with on March 31, when they sit to discuss adding CBD to food and drinks.