You just got one step closer to being able to legally purchase CBD-infused chocolates, sugar, beer and more.

Today the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement announcing a new action plan to jumpstart regulations for “the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products.” Basically, the FDA is taking initial steps towards regulating foods and drinks infused with CBD, the non-hallucinogenic compound in cannabis.

According to the statement, the FDA will create an internal agency to explore pathways to legalization for CBD as a dietary supplement or food ingredient. It will also host a public hearing on the topic on May 31.

This is kind of a big deal. In December of 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill, which removed hemp-derived CBD from the Controlled Substances Act and made it legal for sale. However, since the FDA hasn’t yet approved CBD as food safe, it’s technically still illegal to sell food or drink products containing the substance.

Companies were selling CBD-infused edibles anyway, with little to no consequences. That is, until New York City, Maine, and Ohio cracked down on purveyors earlier this year. For a while it seemed like the FDA was going to really hard-line CBD regulation.

But with this new agenda, the FDA seems to be taking a step back and genuinely seeking a clear pathway to create a regulatory framework for CBD-infused foods. The forthcoming hearing is an important first step. It will not only legitimize CBD as a food ingredient, not a drug. It will also get the ball rolling and start the process for legally regulating CBD as a food and drink additive.

However, the agency also took pains to point out they will not tolerate the sale of CBD as a health product. The statement noted that the FDA has issued “multiple warning letters” to companies marketing CBD products “with egregious and unfounded claims that are aimed at vulnerable populations.” Those include claims that cannabidiol could cure cancer or reverse Alzheimer’s. This strict stance could make things tricky for product developers, as CBD has become something of a darling for the wellness community, who treats it as the next miracle natural ingredient, like turmeric or charcoal. Clearly edibles companies are going to have to be very cautious about what they claim their products can do.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is stepping down this month, so it makes sense he’s trying to get a regulatory framework for CBD in place before he leaves. Of course, regulatory processes have a lot of red tape and move notoriously slowly, so it’ll probably be a while before CBD actually gets the FDA stamp of approval.

But with this new agenda, the FDA is at least taking the first step towards catching up with public opinion when it comes to CBD. If they do eventually approve CBD as a food-safe ingredient — and I don’t see why they wouldn’t — we’ll likely see Big Food companies like Starbucks and Coca-Cola rolling out CBD-infused products of their own. In fact, they’re probably already working on them.

One final note: It’s sort of ironic that we’ve had several public hearings on cultured meat — a relatively new technology that’s not even to market yet — before we had one on CBD, a substance that’s relatively widely available and has a market that’s projected to hit $22 billion by 2022. Maybe it’s because CBD is still stigmatized as a “drug.” Regardless, once it gets FDA approval the CBD market will explode. And now that “when” is looking sooner than ever.

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