New York Lawmakers Address the CBD Sprawl

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As the push to legalize cannabis for adult use stalls in New York, there’s a good chance the rampant CBD industry will be “reined in.”  

A standalone bill to do just that is scheduled to be taken up today by the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. While the broader cannabis law reform package that legalizes cannabis for adult use, among other reforms, would also address CBD products, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo said she “started the process now so that it’s out on the floor and we can pull it up for a vote if need be.”

Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration held a historic hearing on CBD and associated products, with the goal of developing rules for the nationally-booming industry. The problem? In many states, including New York, CBD products are already for sale. Here, they’re in bodegas, in Fairway Market, in GNC vitamin shops, at hair salons, in pop up shops, and on restaurant menus, to name only a few locations.

“We’re understanding that it’s going to take the FDA quite a long time. It has to be data-driven and it could take a while to gather the data. It could be a couple of years before they provide us with guidance. Because we’re so far down the road with the number of growers and processors, we have to do something,” Lupardo told Cannabis Wire, referencing the hundreds of licensed hemp producers in the state, many of which can also process hemp for CBD.

“No one was more surprised than us when it just exploded,” Lupardo said. “And with some degree of concern when you’re at a gas station and you see CBD, where you’re looking at the label, you don’t know where it came from, what’s going on. So yeah we’re absolutely trying to rein it all in.”  

If the bill becomes law, hemp grown for fiber and grain, for example, would still fall under the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Lupardo said, and hemp extracts containing CBD and used for nutritional dietary supplements or research into medicinal applications, for example, would fall under the new agency, “because it’s more complicated than a field crop that Ag and Markets is used to doing,” Lupardo said.

“If we are not successful in passing the big, new agency bill with the legalization of adult use in it, I have the standalone bill,” she said, of the legislation that clarifies the state’s approach to hemp extracts.

Lupardo said that “every region of the state,” especially upstate, and specifically in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier are “seeing enormous growth” because of hemp cultivation. Since the US legalized hemp in December through the Farm Bill, “this has ramped up enormously,” Lupardo said. And, as Cannabis Wire recently reported, the largest cannabis company in the world, Canopy Growth, recently chose upstate New York for its multimillion dollar Hemp Industrial Park.

“It’s extremely important that we provide some regulatory guidance around the growers, the producers, and for the consumer,” she said. “We’re trying to provide protections for every part of the supply chain. And ultimately what we want is for New York to have the safest product line in the country, with the best labeling standards, the best testing standards, so that people know what they’re buying.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who also sponsored the bill, said that the bill aims to put some barriers around what’s allowed when it comes to CBD, and is a “better approach.”

The bill could also serve as a model for regulators in other states that are also grappling with the surge in consumer demand for CBD products, and the seemingly sudden supply. Lupardo said she recently received a phone call from a regulator in North Carolina who said they were “very interested in this hemp extracts bill that you’ve got out there because we’re trying to wrap our arms around this ourselves largely because of the unregulated products that are coming in from who knows where?”

So what’s next with legalization?

The session ends on June 19. And while that’s a narrow window to pass a legalization bill, lawmakers in Illinois just showed that it can be done.

Legalization remains part of New York’s “very aggressive short list to do” in the waning days of the session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Tuesday. But, Cuomo added, “I don’t think, as we sit here with 10 days left, the Senate has the votes. The reason I say that is because they said they don’t have the votes. So, I’m just taking them at their word.”

Lupardo said, “We’re going to have to see where we’re at by the 16th, 17th, 18th. I’m going to have to look around and say ‘so, does the Senate have the votes?’ … And if that looks like it’s not going to happen, I’m going to have to pull this bill up for a vote.”

Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, who has pushed vigorously for equity provisions in the adult use proposal during budget negotiations and after, said those discussions still hinge on equity. “They are still focused around that. That has to be included,” Peoples-Stokes told Cannabis Wire.

“Some might say that’s crazy to be optimistic, but I’ve been in Albany for a while. And it’s not over until the last day. And the last day is not here yet. So yes, I am optimistic.”

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