In the latest development of state governments figuring out the regulatory processes for hemp, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made news earlier this week as he signed Senate Bill 918, that would effectively regulate cannabis-derived products like CBD as foods.

Industry groups, consumers, and public policymakers have been pushing for several years now for the creation of an integrated, uniform policy that regulates CBD.

When the industry began to expand rapidly in the mid-2010s, lawmakers found themselves behind the 8-ball, as often happens when an entirely new product or technology emerges onto the market.

The attempt this week by Virginia lawmakers to better regulate the CBD industry is only a piecemeal solution that may provide some temporary and limited benefit. However, lacking a nationwide movement among legislative bodies and regulatory agencies, CBD will likely remain stuck in legal limbo.

Virginia’s Bill

Senate Bill 918 sets safety and quality standards in facilities that produce CBD. It also provides enforcement through testing, labeling requirements, and purity tests. Violators face financial penalties and, ultimately, forced closure if required corrections are not made.

Virginia CBD farmers that the local NBC affiliate spoke to expressed relief at the new measures, citing the often-reported concerns of a lack of quality assurance. One described the state of CBD affairs as the “Wild West.”

However, the inadequacies of the bill were not lost on observers. For example, the issue of CBD products from other states remains a concern, as those products will go through none of the regulatory oversight that CBD products from Virginia will undergo.

Along with Bill 918, Governor Northam also signed welcomed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use and a legal remedy for Virginians convicted of possession in the past to expunge their records.

Filling the FDA Gap

The pharmaceutical industry is perpetually at odds with the natural health industry. Drug manufacturers also have enormous sway on public policy through the financing of politicians’ political campaigns, making them sympathetic to the concerns of industry leaders.

Therefore, it should come as no shock that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far, despite the accumulating scientific evidence of CBD’s healing potential for a variety of conditions, refused to approve any CBD products except for one – Epidolex, a proprietary drug developed by their friends in the pharmaceutical industry.

In fact, the FDA warns against companies marketing CBD as dietary supplementation or even adding it to food. In 2019, the FDA began notifying companies that it believed had violated its regulations with official letters.

The inaction by the FDA on moving forward with CBD regulation has left the industry in limbo. Quality assurance now falls into the lap of third-party certification labs that test the purity of CBD products and then lend the credibility of their reputation to those companies whose products pass the tests.

The Importance of CBD Regulation

As with any other consumer products, unscrupulous manufacturers can break into the market with substandard, cut-rate products at bargain sales. Without a reliable, uniform inspection process, separating the quality CBD products from the inferior ones at the speed of business becomes impossible.

As a result of the lack of regulation, responsible CBD growers and product manufacturers are forced to compete with the lower prices of competitors who cut corners and, often, endanger consumer safety with products adulterated by chemicals or even with fake CBD products.

While the recent legislation comes as a welcome relief to Virginian CBD producers as well as its consumers, a more holistic, national approach to CBD regulation is necessary.