CBD in food and beverages is becoming a hot trend, but the legality and potential consequences of this remain unclear.
Here's a quick primer, but remember we are not doctors and we are certainly not lawyers, so don't make any decisions based on this article!
According to surveys from the National Restaurant Association, food and beverages infused with CBD are becoming a top culinary trend for 2019, with bars and restaurants adding it to drinks, desserts and other menu items. In fact, both Martha Stewart and Snoop Dog have partnered with one of the world's largest marijuana growers, Canopy Growth, to develop lines of CBD products for both people and pets.
CBD, which means Cannabidiol, is one of many compounds known as cannabinoids, in the cannabis plant. Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, and these compounds have different effects.
THC creates a mind-altering "high" when a person smokes it or uses it in cooking. This is because THC breaks down when we apply heat and introduce it into the body.
CBD is different. Unlike THC, it is not psychoactive. This means that CBD does not change a person's state of mind when they use it. However, according to many people CBD does produce significant changes in the body, and some research suggests that it has medical benefits. Supporters of the product, or perhaps we should say promoters, claim it can help with everything from pain, to seizures, to inflammation to anxiety. Experts say there is not yet enough evidence to support these claims and there could be medical risks.
Perhaps more concerning is that CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality. When news organizations recently analyzed a sample of CBD products, they found widely varying differences from the product label with some containing no CBD oil at all.
Compounding the problem (pun intended) the FDA has not classified CBD in any terms. It is currently neither a drug, a dietary supplement nor food. This has led to a confusing patchwork of state and local laws that have hemp farmers, CBD manufacturers, and restaurants calling for more guidance from the Food and Drug Administration.
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently banned the use of CBD in food and beverages across New York City. The department issued a statement which read, "restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat.” At the time of writing the department is said to be reviewing this ban. Similar action has been taken by health departments in other cities.
Currently, CBD oil is legal in 30 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, and 17 additional states have passed CBD-specific laws. Responding to requests for clearer rules, the FDA is holding public hearings soon as the first step towards the agency issuing an official rule about companies adding CBD to food and beverages.
In the meantime, restaurants and bars should keep up to date with the laws in the cities and states where they operate, should follow all applicable laws whether federal, state or local.