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Future uncertain for bill regulating CBD


A bill currently before Gov. Andrew Cuomo would regulate the sale of CBD products in New York state and set up new rules for the state’s growing hemp industry.

Cuomo has not yet decided whether he’s going to sign it, potentially leaving what is now a legal gray area in limbo.

CBD, or cannabidiol, products seem to be for sale everywhere these days -- in health food stores, grocery stores and pet stores.

“You can walk into gas station and get a CBD product,” said Sen. Jen Metzger, the Senate sponsor of a bill that the state Senate and Assembly have approved to regulate CBD and the hemp-growing industry in New York. 

Metzger said right now, it’s impossible to tell whether you are purchasing a product that actually contains CBD or not. 

Assembly sponsor Donna Lupardo agrees. She said the governor needs to sign the bill so that purchasers can be protected.  

“We think consumers really deserve this,” Lupardo said. “And given the Wild West going on across the country, we owe it to them and to our growers to have high-quality standards in place.”

CBD is a chemical that exists in hemp plants. Unlike with marijuana, though, a person using it does not get high. That’s because CBD contains only trace amounts of THC, the substance that is responsible for the euphoria and altered moods associated with marijuana, Lupardo said. 

“CBD is by no means something people are using to get one high,” said Lupardo. “They are using it either for a nutritional supplement or for potential medicinal purposes.”

CBD is credited with relieving stress, anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches and other ailments, including seizure disorders. Lupardo said those results have not yet been proven through testing, but she said the Pharmacy School at the State University of New York at Binghamton has begun some research.  

CBD is legal as long as it contains no more than 0.03% of THC. It is currently not technically legal to add CBD to a food or beverage product. The bill sets up a path to allow that, but the process is complicated because it also involves the jurisdiction of local health departments. 

The New York City Health Department earlier this year cracked down on restaurants and other eateries that were selling CBD-laced food and drink, saying the substance has not yet been deemed safe as a food additive. 

The bill passed by the Legislature would set up standards for growing the plants that produce CBD and create laboratory testing centers where the products could be certified. It also would require products to contain QR codes that link buyers to documents showing that the product complies with standards, describing the recommended dosage and warning them to check with their doctor first if they have certain underlying medical conditions. 

Metzger said if the bill becomes law, someone buying a CBD product would know exactly what they are getting. 

“So that consumers can be confident it’s the quality that they want, and also that they are getting solid information about what the actual benefits are,” Metzger said.

The measure is backed by the recently formed New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association. The group said products now are “rushed into the state with little oversight, and raise health and safety concerns.” The group said farmers would benefit from a stable market with known requirements. 

The Legislature did not reach an agreement with Cuomo on the measure before they approved it in the final hours of the legislative session. The bill was approved after it became clear that a more comprehensive measure that included legalization of adult recreational marijuana had failed.

Cuomo, one day after the session, said he needs more time to study it before he decides whether to sign it.

“Government 101: Read the bill before you support it,” Cuomo said.

A spokesman for the governor, Jason Conwall, said the bill is still under review. Its sponsors say until it becomes law, it's buyer beware for those who purchase CBD.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.