Mississippi adds to regulatory tangle with warning on CBD products

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags CBD Cbd Hemp hemp extracts Regulation

Mississippi state officials have issued a blanket warning to consumers about the dangers of all CBD products sold in the state.

According to a report from a local TV station​, in a news conference last week officials from the state’s Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Department of Health said that agencies stressed that with the lack of federal oversight and what they characterized as insufficient scientific backing it is unsafe for consumers to use CBD products regardless of where and how they buy it.

“We have no idea what ingredients or amounts are in these products and without proper labeling, you do not know what you are consuming and that is dangerous,”​ Marshall Fisher, Commissioner of Public Safety, was quoted as saying in the local report.

“Testing of CBD products purchased around the state have shown that the overwhelming majority of CBD products are mislabeled. A large number of the products contain narcotics that are illegal under both state and federal law. The public safety and health concerns arising from the sale and use of these products are alarming,” ​said John Dowdy, Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

Mississippi not alone in taking unilateral action

This is only the latest state-based enforcement initiative concerning the hemp/CBD realm since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.  That law has been widely seen as having removed almost all impediments to the development of the industry in those states that do not specifically prohibit the trade.  At the moment, only a handful of states still have hard prohibitions.

But some state regulators are still concerned about the federal regulatory conundrum. CBD is still not a valid dietary ingredient according to the US Food and Drug Administration based on its reading of the drug exclusionary clause in federal regulation that states if a substance has been investigated as a drug prior to its appearance in the food supply either as a food ingredient or as a dietary ingredient for use in supplements, a drug it must remain. 

Another confounding factor is the provision in the Farm Bill for a regulation to be issued by the US Department of Agriculture on hemp cultivation.  USDA is said to be close to issuing this regulation, but has not yet done so.

Citing these regulatory gaps, Iowa State Attorney General Thomas J. Miller declared all CBD sales within the state to be illegal​, except those made in the state’s small list of medical dispensaries.  Also, no hemp cultivation was approved in the state this year, pending the USDA ruling.

Confusing situation becomes more confusing by the day

Attorney Marc Ullman, of counsel with the firm Rivkin Radler, said every week that goes by without some sort of official word on CBD (like USDA, FDA is said to be ‘close’ to issuing some sort of statement on its progress on CBD regulation) adds to the confusing patchwork quilt of regulations and enforcement thresholds.

“This creates nothing but confusion in the market,”​ Ullman told NutraIngredients-USA.

“The Mississippi regulators said they are getting no guidance from the federal regulators and they are concerned about the products in the market.  FDA has created an enormous vacuum and no one is filling this void,” ​he said.

“Even companies that are trying to be responsible have no way to figure out what is expected of them,” ​he added.

Ullman said the regulatory briar patch, which includes state health officials and many state AGs, now extends even to the local level. In New York City, a market larger than that of many entire states, in the absence of federal action local health officials are enforcing what they consider to be FDA’s ban on the ingredient.

“They are not out there looking for it. But when they find CBD products in the course of an inspection, they are seizing those products and issuing fines,”​ Ullman said.

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