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Hemp Industry Organizations Urge House Energy and Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on FDA Regulation

A group of hemp industry organizations sent a Jan. 24 letter to leaders in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urging them to expedite a hearing on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation—or lack thereof—of the hemp market, including CBD products.

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The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, in conjunction with 27 other nonprofit organizations representing every facet of the hemp supply chain, as well as four national dietary supplement organizations, sent the letter Wednesday to Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

“In the more than five years since the legalization of hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill, in spite of a designated annual appropriation, the FDA has taken no meaningful steps toward the regulation of hemp—whether it be animal feed or extracts for human consumption like CBD,” hemp organization members wrote in the letter.

As the signees point out in their letter, it has been five years since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the commercial production and sale of hemp. While the FDA initially said it was investigating regulatory pathways to oversee the hemp industry, the agency changed course in January 2023, when it announced that Congress would need to intervene and authorize a new regulatory framework for the hemp market.

“Meanwhile, thousands of unregulated products continue to be sold, causing great consumer confusion and advantaging bad actors via-a-vis good faith manufacturers who want to play by the rules and offer healthy products,” hemp organization members wrote in their letter.

The signees said they “were very encouraged last summer” when the House Energy and Commerce Committee joined the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to seek public comment on the future of hemp regulation under the FDA.

“We understand that there were hundreds of respondents, and numerous recommended options for moving forward,” they wrote. “By now, your staff has had months to review and consider these recommendations.”

Meanwhile, House Agriculture and Oversight committees have held hearings on the issue, but as the hemp organization members wrote in their letter, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has primary jurisdiction and “must weigh in for there to be meaningful action.”

“We’ve been assured that an Energy and Commerce hearing would take place on a number of occasions, but the time for a hearing has never been riper,” they wrote. “We urge you to take immediate steps to hold a hearing before your committee, bringing the RFI ideas to public light, and offering an opportunity for your members to weigh in on the crucial issues that must be resolved for the hemp industry to survive, and for health and public safety to truly be protected.”

The letter’s authors say that the FDA’s failure to regulate the hemp market not only hurts farmers and puts consumers at risk, but also poses additional issues for other hemp products, including fiber and grain offtakes such as construction materials, biofuels and food ingredients.

The hemp organization members said that with the rescheduling of cannabis “apparently imminent,” regulatory uncertainty for hemp will become “an even more urgent crisis” for industry stakeholders.

The upcoming Farm Bill, which many hope will address regulations for hemp and hemp-derived products—including delta-8 THC products—missed an end-of-2023 deadline with lawmakers indicating the must-pass legislation could face a one-year delay.

As negotiations on the bill continue this year, 33 hemp industry organizations, including the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, united around several key objectives for the legislation that aim to create more jobs while also providing regulatory direction to farmers.

One of those objectives is to regulate CBD and other hemp-derived ingredients under the existing frameworks for dietary supplements and food additives.

“It is no small task to unite today’s hemp industry around a shared goal,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said in a public statement Wednesday. “But this letter, and the accompanying 28 organizations, have all agreed we need FDA action to regulate hemp products, and we need it now. The fate of the entire industry—hemp extracts, fiber, seed, etc.—depend on regulatory oversight, and we urge House Energy and Commerce to take swift action to address these issues through a hearing in the near future.”