FDA chief Hahn says it would be ‘fool’s game’ to try to shut down CBD markets

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

FDA photo.
FDA photo.

Related tags Cbd hemp extracts Hemp hemp foods

FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn, MD, in a speech on Wednesday, said that despite its continued concern about insufficient safety data, the FDA has no plans to try to shut down the CBD markets. Hahn said that would amount to a “fool’s game.”

Hahn was speaking in Washington, DC., at the Winter Policy Conference of the NASDA (National Association of State Departments of Agriculture).  The speech dealt in large part with how to better use new data tools to ensure a safe food supply. Hahn went off script when he came to the concluding portion of his speech that addressed the CBD question.

Hahn first gave as an example of the burgeoning market for CBD a “huge” ​display of these products he’d seen in an airport recently.  He added that he has also been approached directly by consumers seeking information about CBD.

Hahn: No way to shut down market now

Dr Stephen Hahn, MD

We know one thing, the American people are using CBD products,” ​Hahn told the audience. “People are using these products. We're not going to be able to say you can’t use these products. It’s a fool’s game to try to even approach that.”

Hahn went on to say, "We have to be open to the fact that there might be some value in these products and certainly Americans think that’s the case. But we want to get them information to help them make the right decisions.” 

The text of the CBD portion of Hahn’s prepared speech spoke of FDA moving ‘deliberately’ to determine the safety of CBD products, especially as there is, “[S]till much we don’t know about the effects of sustained, long-term exposure to these products.” 

Hahn echoed some of that sentiment in his extemporaneous remarks Wednesday when he said, “What do we need to do?  We need to fill the information gaps.”

NPA: Complaint of ‘not enough data’ wearing thin

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association said there is growing impatience with FDA’s notions of ‘deliberation.’  FDA convened a meeting on May 31, 2019​, to solicit input from industry stakeholders and other interested parties on how to move forward on CBD regulation.  In the course of the 10-hour meeting the agency heard from dozens of speakers, and received numerous document submissions after the event.  At the time the agency committed to making a statement sometime in the fall of last year​ on how it planned to move forward on the CBD/hemp extracts question, but that deadline came and went with no action.

Enough is enough, Fabricant said.

“Of course we’re supportive of FDA not shutting down the CBD market, and we hope this is a sign they’re moving forward. But we keep hearing from the agency that there is not enough data. There is enough data. If Ireland can make a decision on CBD, if the UK can, too . . . and the FDA, the gold standard for food and drug regulatory bodies in the world, can’t? That discussion needs to cease and desist.” ​ 

Candor is refreshing

Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, said Hahn’s candor was refreshing, and a surprise.

“It was remarkable for a new commissioner to speak as frankly as he did,” ​Israelsen said.

“The message is still that they will be deliberate and follow the science.  But his observation is that we really can’t ban this and now we have to find a way to proceed.  We stand ready to help them achieve that important goal."

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