Marijuana Business Magazine October 2018

COLUMN: HEMP NOTEBOOK H ow’s this for irony: The hemp industry’s rush to distance itself from marijuana has gone so far that hemp products can’t be sold in the world’s largest can- nabis economy. The development in California is a bitter lesson in being careful what you wish for. A state health agency put the hemp industry in panic mode this past summer, when it ruled that CBD could not come from hemp, only from cannabis. Confused? Hemp, after all, is can- nabis sativa L., the same plant that can produce the intoxicant marijuana. But hemp is not cannabis in California – at least not legally. That state specifically removed “industrial hemp” from its definition of “can- nabis,” meaning that hemp plants with THC content below 0.3% aren’t considered cannabis. It’s not just a silly botanical debate. California’s recreational and medi- cal marijuana retail sales are pro- jected to total $2.3 billion to $3 billion this year, according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2018. And the CBD market in California is booming just as it is in other states, with CBD being sold everywhere from juice bars to hotel minibars. But because hemp isn’t considered cannabis in California, hemp doesn’t get to be a part of that multibillion- dollar market. Health authorities say that hemp-derived CBD can’t be added to foods, drinks or nutritional supplements. CBD derived from regulated mari- juana, though? Still OK under state law. The irony gets thicker when you read California’s rationale for banning hemp-derived CBD. It is because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says CBD can’t go in food. That’s right. The same state that is willing to go to the mat to fight federal authorities over marijuana and THC throws its hands up and sur- renders when a federal agency takes a stance on CBD. California hemp advocates are understandably pointing fingers, saying marijuana companies don’t want competition in the heated CBD market. They’re dragging up old gripes about marijuana producers not wanting to allow outdoor-grown hemp near their crops for fear of contamination. It’s an ugly mess that should stoke fears for the entire industry. Califor- nia’s hemp and marijuana industries see each other as adversaries. Even if California’s CBD rule is mod- ified, rescinded or lightly enforced, it underscores one of hemp’s longest- running existential threats: The same plant that makes amazing industrial products and CBD can also make the intoxicating molecule THC. I hope California’s CBD confusion is resolved in a way that allows hemp farmers and manufacturers to capitalize on the Golden State’s 40 million consumers. I also hope this California mess gives the larger hemp industry pause. As fast-changing regulations reshape the CBD sector of the cannabis economy, hemp entrepreneurs need to pay attention to regulations unfolding in Washington DC and also at state and even local boards of health. So, don’t ignore your local regula- tory agencies. They could be just as influential as Congress when it comes to your business plans. ◆ Kristen Nichols covers hemp for Marijuana Business Magazine. Reach her at Kristen Nichols Misconception Made Law California’s stance on hemp-derived CBD underscores the importance of paying attention to state and local regulators as the industry grows By Kristen Nichols 32 • Marijuana Business Magazine • October 2018