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CBD regulation in NYS remains in limbo, as bill awaits governor's signature

Carla K. Johnson / AP

The USDA released long-awaited regulations on CBD this week that will provide more federal regulation of the growing of hemp plants, where CBD comes from. Meanwhile, in New York, a bill that would regulate CBD is in limbo. The State Legislature has approved it, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t acted on it yet.

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Jen Metzger, said she is hopeful that the governor will soon sign the bill that she sponsored to regulate CBD, or cannabidiol, a chemical extracted from the hemp plant. It contains only trace amounts of THC, the substance in cannabis that gets people high.

Metzger said right now, it’s the Wild West when it comes to buying the product. 

“There is zero regulation of these products,” said Metzger, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley. 

The bill would require testing of CBD products that are sold and establish labeling to certify that the products actually contain the substance and not some other additive. It also would set up guidelines for the state’s farmers to grow it and share in the profits that come from the increasingly popular product. 

Currently, it is in a legal gray area. It is not a federal crime to sell the product and some believe that the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill essentially legalized it, because it permitted the sale of hemp that does not contain the psychoactive THC component.

It is not legal to sell CBD in food or beverages. The New York City Health Department recently prevented restaurants and other eateries from selling CBD-laced food and drinks, saying the substance has not yet been deemed safe as a food additive.  

A mysterious illness related to THC and vaping has sickened thousands across the country and killed dozens. Metzger said CBD is usually not consumed by vaping, but she is concerned that without any standards, someone might get sick someday from using a product that claims to contain CBD, but might actually be something else. 

“I think you should worry, there’s no quality standards here,” Metzger said. 

CBD is said to relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia and could help ease muscle aches and other ailments. It is approved by the FDA for treating a rare severe seizure disorder in children.

Metzger said there needs to be more study of the substance and its potential effects, good and bad.

Metzger and Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, who both chair the agriculture committees in their respective houses, introduced the measure late in the 2019 legislative session, when it became clear that a more comprehensive bill that would also legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis was not going to win approval. 

Cuomo is currently working with three neighboring states to craft a comprehensive bill on cannabis use and vaping that could be ready to vote on in 2020. But Metzger said it still makes sense to regulate CBD before this year ends.  

“There’s no need to wait for a broader cannabis bill,” Metzger said. 

The governor’s office said that Cuomo is still reviewing the bill.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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