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By Kyle Jaeger
As Congress considers creating a framework to oversee the nation’s cannabis market, a major alcohol association is offering federal lawmakers advice on regulating hemp-derived cannabinoids, including CBD and delta-8 THC.
Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA)—which came out in support of federally legalizing marijuana earlier this year—sent a letter to House and Senate committees on Friday in response to the panels’ recent requests for information on navigating CBD and other emerging cannabinoids.
“The transition from Prohibition to legal status for alcohol has been an American success story,” it says. “Since the 21st Amendment’s enactment, a safe, consumer-centric and economically vibrant marketplace has developed, one serving the needs of both regulators and consumers. While individual regulations have evolved, the basic federal regulatory structure of permitting and tax collection continues to endure.”
“As Congress considers a potential regulatory pathway for intoxicating hemp products, America’s wine and spirits wholesalers believe it is important to share what our industry has learned over time and to encourage you and other legislators to pursue robust reform and regulation,” the letter continues.
One of the main reasons Congress is exploring regulatory models for CBD is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said earlier this year that, following an extensive review, it believes it currently lacks the necessary authority to enact a framework on its own.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced late last month that it would be accepting expert input on the issue through the end of last week. In addition to WSWA, state marijuana regulators, hemp industry groups and other stakeholders sent letters that included detailed responses to dozens of specific questions from the panels.
WSWA argued in its comments that lawmakers should create a distinct regulatory category for intoxicating cannabinoids like delta-8 THC, with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) responsible for those products. The association previously recommended having TTB oversee the marijuana industry if cannabis is federally legalized.
WSWA “has had experience in the decades since the passage of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution safely serving the market for an intoxicating product,” the letter to lawmakers says. “While we are not experts in a number of the areas in which you request information (for example, safety and toxicity data for CBD and other hemp derived cannabinoids), we believe that we can assist the Committees by answering a number of the questions in which our members do have experience.”
The group—which previously endorsed a Senate bill to allow CBD to be used in consumable products such as foods, drinks and dietary supplements—addressed several key questions related to issues such as creating national standards for CBD products, regulating lesser known intoxicating cannabinoids, ensuring that states are seen as regulatory partners, promoting consumer protections and more.
The comments also come months after top executives at WSWA spoke at their annual conference, explaining the reasons they voiced support for marijuana legalization and encouraging other alcohol industry stakeholders to join them in advocating for reform.
WSWA came out in support of states rights to legalize cannabis in 2018 and followed up with a briefing on Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers and congressional staffers about its position later that year.
Some advocates see the alcohol association’s engagement on the issue as a boon to reform efforts, especially given its widespread network of members and connections to Congress.
Others have been skeptical about the industry and warned against modeling marijuana after alcohol, arguing that such an approach could disrupt existing state markets and threaten small businesses if the comparatively large companies are given too much influence over legalization legislation.