Rules and regulations in hemp and CBD are not four-letter words.
By Jason Waggoner, Senior Vice President, General Manager, EcoGen Biosciences
The Farm Bill legalizing hemp was passed and signed into law in December of 2018. Yet, as of today, nearly two years later, the industry still hasn’t received concrete direction or guidance from the FDA. But, with the introduction of the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act, we could see that change.
Introduced by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in May of 2021, the bill has support from the Consumer Brands Association, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, Hemp Roundtable, and more. Senator Wyden said in a statement, “CBD products are legally being used and produced across the nation. Yet because the FDA has failed to update its regulations, consumers and producers remain in a regulatory gray zone. It’s been more than two years since I worked with colleagues to have Congress legalize hemp and hemp-derived products. It’s long past time for the FDA to get with the program, for the sake of American consumers and farmers.”
At EcoGen, we have been closely following the introduction of the Hemp Access and Consumer Safety Act to Congress, and we applaud lawmakers for continuing to strive for federal legislation that allows safe and open access to high-quality hemp-derived products. Without going into significant detail, the bill intends to provide the pathway for the use of CBD in dietary supplements, so long as those supplements adhere to all other regulations associated with the product.
We believe this is simply the next step in the evolution of the hemp industry, and specifically, the CBD market. This bill signifies the next iteration of regulation necessary for bringing CBD to the consumer.
Governance and regulation are often mentioned with a negative connotation. Many producers fear government oversight, but it’s a common misconception that federal guidance will ultimately lead to the death of the small business. In fact, the opposite could be true.
Mom-and-pop operators are going out of business right now, and even some larger enterprises are struggling. The source of the problem isn’t regulation; it’s actually due to a lack of regulation.
Without regulation and FDA guidance, we can’t sell our products. The lack of regulation prevents retailers from entering the space, and without retailers, products can’t be sold. So, many of the producers, who were banking on regulation and a proper market, went bankrupt.
Large or small, many organizations are doing things the right way. For those producers, when regulation comes, they’ll be able to pivot quickly and adjust to the market. Those who have prepared for it will be more victorious than others.
Being rewarded for a job well done
With many of us having CPG backgrounds, the depth of experience at EcoGen runs deep. We understand that there are consumer safety concerns in hemp and CBD production. Today, consumers simply don’t know where the material in their products comes from. Unfortunately, there are just as many players manufacturing products with a total disregard for safety as there are producers who put consumer safety first.
Regulations help improve product quality through safe employment initiatives, benefit programs for employees, and OSHA standards. Demonstrating the discipline to execute policies for a good working environment, safety and quality assurance programs, proper recall procedures, and supply chains ultimately benefits the consumer. I say with confidence that having the discipline to adhere to regulations will produce a better end product.
Companies like EcoGen aren’t rewarded for going above and beyond in the current market without the necessary regulation. Setting the standards for regulations means carrying costs that many others aren’t incurring. Competing against less scrupulous companies puts reputable producers at a disadvantage. Regulation will level the playing field and reward the companies that are ahead of the curve.
Although 2020 impacted retails sales for almost every industry, the pandemic was not the sole cause of the CBD market crash. Instead, retail sales and online sales declined when the repeat cycle began, and buyers didn’t repeat – which has everything to do with the quality and efficacy of the product.
If the products aren’t efficacious or don’t deliver on the consumer’s expectations, they’ll most likely not repurchase them. Whatever the benefit might be, many consumers are seeking a result from CBD. But without regulation, we can’t educate for that. As it stands, it’s impossible to educate consumers or inform them how to be effective with CBD.
The lack of regulation is breeding a ‘smoke and mirrors’ industry as a result of not having clarity from the governing bodies. Frankly, they’ve created a burgeoning industry full of confusion.
The research is there
Historically, the argument has always been, “We need more research.” Today, that delineation can’t be drawn. All across the globe, research on hemp and how it impacts the human endocannabinoid system has been steadily on the rise. Whether or not it’s the research the FDA would like to see is debatable, but without question, there’s plenty of data available.
The hemp industry and farmers deserve more clarity and guidelines as we work to develop one of the fastest-growing markets in the world — and it’s exciting to watch us move closer to accomplishing that goal. There has been some confusion in the market due to a lack of regulation, but the future looks bright. EcoGen is excited to remain an industry leader and set the bar for compliance, quality testing, and product innovation as new federal legislation develops.