California Moves to Legalize CBD in Products While Banning Smokable Hemp
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California Moves to Legalize CBD in Products While Banning Smokable Hemp

The state’s newest CBD-related legislation includes a smokable hemp ban, but industry experts emphasize that could change.

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January 15, 2021

CBD

After an attempt last year fizzled in the state senate, California lawmakers are once again trying to pass a bill allowing cannabidiol (CBD) in ingestible and topical products. But this time, there’s a twist: The bill would also ban smokable hemp.

AB45 would permit cannabinoids and other hemp extracts to be added to dietary supplements, food, beverages, cosmetics and pet food. Those are all currently prohibited in the state. Meanwhile, the bill would also ban smokable hemp flower, along with hemp products ”containing nicotine, tobacco, or alcohol.”

The bill comes at a time when states across the country are working out laws regarding the end uses of those two hemp products: flower and cannabinoids. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sees nearly any product with CBD as federally illegal. The agency has not yet released a stance on smokable hemp, making it federally legal. (Arguably, the FDA has no jurisdiction over smokable hemp at all, says Harris Bricken Attorney Jesse Mondry in Hemp Grower’s January issue.)

AB45 would flip those stances on their heads, legalizing CBD in thousands of products while making smokable hemp illegal. This follows in the footsteps of Texas, which has implemented similar regulations; however, that state’s smokable hemp ban is currently being challenged in court and was temporarily placed on hold.

RELATED: Texas Opens Hemp Production for its Nearly 250,000 Farms

State Rep. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who sponsored the bill, says state public health officials asked for the smokable hemp ban to be added to the bill. She adds that the bill, including the smokable hemp ban in particular, is subject to debate in the legislature.

“Since health officials represent the biggest community of concern, we don’t want to risk the overall effort unless enough people in the industry are passionate enough to engage and can successfully advocate for them to change that position,” Aguiar-Curry tells Hemp Grower.

Jonathan Miller, general counsel for U.S. Hemp Roundtable, adds that "there are efforts and discussions in the governor's office and [among] legislators to explore removing that ban."

The smokable hemp ban was a compromise made to advance CBD legislation once state lawmakers failed to reach an agreement before the end of last year's legislative session, Miller says.

"Perfect is the enemy of the good," Miller says. "We supported compromise last year and again this year, but there’s a lot of time between now and when bill is passed" for things to change, he adds.

Aguiar-Curry says she's hopeful the bill will pass this time around, which will likely happen some time between August and September. The bill contains an urgency clause, meaning it will become effective upon a signature from the governor. 

Miller adds that California farmers have expressed their opposition to the smokable hemp ban. "It’s probably the easiest and most profitable way to market hemp right now,” he says.