Report: Many Commercially Marketed CBD Products Tainted with Psychoactive Adulterants
New York, NY: One-third of commercially marketed CBD products tested positive for the presence of synthetic, psychoactive adulterants while others tested negative for any presence of CBD, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
Reporters commissioned laboratory testing of 30 commercially available CBD products sold at retailers (non-state licensed dispensaries), including edible products and vapor products. The AP reported that ten of the 30 products analyzed tested positive for the presence of synthetic cannabinoids typically identified in illicit products such as 'Spice,' 'K2,' and other controlled substances. These synthetic agents are illegal under federal law and their consumption may be associated with significant adverse health effects.
A case report published in May in the journal Clinical Toxicology previously reported the identification of the synthetic cannabinoid agonist AB-FUBINACA (aka 5F-ADB) in a brand of CBD products commercially marketed online.
The AP reported that the adulterated products in question were marketed commercially in 13 states, including Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, and Texas. It acknowledged that the packaging and labeling typically fails to identify the manufacturers of the products.
Several of the products analyzed in the AP investigation also tested negative for the presence of CBD or only contained trace amounts of the compound – a finding that is consistent with those of prior reports. Last week, a Hawaii News Now report identified the presence of bacteria, THC, and only trace levels of CBD in several products commercially available at local retail markets. Not a single product tested contained the precise amount of CBD that was advertised on the packaging.
Currently, commercially marketed CBD-infused products are not subject to explicit federal regulations. As a result, third-party lab testing has frequently revealed inconsistencies between the percentage of CBD advertised and the amount actually contained in some of these products. In many cases – such as those reported here, here, here, here, and here – actual quantities of CBD in the product are far lower than advertised. In other cases, testing has revealed the presence of THC, which may put consumers in jeopardy for legal ramifications – such as arrest or the loss of employment (due to a drug test failure). Some commercial products have also been identified to contain elevated levels of heavy metals and solvents.
By contrast, CBD-infused products sold at state-licensed dispensaries are typically subject to state-specific regulations and lab testing protocols.
In May, NORML provided written testimony to the US Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to move expeditiously to provide regulatory guidelines governing CBD-infused products, including best practices for their manufacturing, standardization, and purity. NORML opined: "For years, producers of these products have navigated in a gray area of the law – manufacturing products of variable and sometimes questionable quality and safety. Now it is time for the FDA to craft benchmark safety and quality standards for hemp-derived CBD products in order to increase consumer satisfaction and confidence as this nascent industry transitions and matures into a legal marketplace."
Full text of the Associated Press investigation is online.
Washington, DC: The Director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Acting Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have acknowledged that existing federal regulations hinder clinical cannabis research, and are suggesting that scientists be able to legally access cannabis products from sources other than the University of Mississippi – the only federally licensed supply source of marijuana for research purposes.
In a letter to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), first obtained by Politico, the officials acknowledge that the existing monopoly on federally authorized cannabis production limits "the diversity of [cannabis] products and formulations available to researchers, [thus] slowing the development of cannabis-based medications." The letter's authors suggest both "licensing additional entities to supply cannabis," as well as "enabling researchers holding Schedule I licenses for marijuana to obtain products from state authorized dispensaries" – changes NORML has long argued for.
They conclude that the current regulations governing the clinical study of cannabis, along with the Schedule I status of marijuana under federal law, create "significant administrative cost challenges that slow this research and may deter scientists from pursuing cannabis research altogether."
Since 2016, officials at the US Drug Enforcement Administration have promised to license additional, private producers of research-grade cannabis. As of yet however, the DEA has failed to take action on more than 30 applications pending before it, and the agency has yet to provide a timeline as to when they intend to do so.
Since 1968, only the University of Mississippi has been federally licensed to engage in the growing of cannabis for FDA-approved clinical research. Scientists familiar with the product have consistently said that it is of inferior quality and fails to accurately reflect the types of marijuana varieties commercially available in legal states. Further, the University only provides scientists with the option to access herbal cigarette formulations of the plant, not concentrates, edibles, or extracts. Strains high in the compound cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical of particular interest to many scientists – are also not currently available from the University.
Earlier this year, Maryland became the first state to enact explicit legislation authorizing academic institutions and researchers seeking to study the "medical use, properties, or composition of cannabis" to obtain source materials from state-licensed cannabis dispensaries.
On Wednesday, members of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee expressed similar concerns that existing regulatory barriers unduly inhibit the clinical study of cannabis.
Washington, DC: Mayor Signs Order Expanding Workplace Protections for Cannabis Consumers
Washington, DC: Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an order on Tuesday clarifying legal protections for certain District employees who consume cannabis while away from the job. The new rules apply to all District government agencies under the direct administrative authority of the Mayor.
Under the rules, many would-be employees will no longer face pre-employment drug screenings. The order states: "Employees who are not in a safety-sensitive position will be tested for drugs only upon reasonable suspicion, or after an accident or incident. Thus, those employees not in safety-sensitive positions may find that they can use cannabis, with or without a medical card authorizing [it], so long as they are not impaired at work."
Commenting on the policy change, NORML NE Political Associate Tyler McFadden said: "Employment protections are critical to ensure that law-abiding adults are not unduly discriminated against in their efforts to be productive members of society solely because of their use of cannabis while off the job. This order provides clarity and guidance to employers and peace of mind to the employees who work in the District of Columbia."
For employees seeking safety-sensitive positions, the order states that those who test positive for the presence of cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen may be "disqualified." In some cases, however, the order states that those who initially test positive for cannabis may receive a "second opportunity to take a drug test at least two weeks after the initial test results have been provided."
In cases involving post-accident testing, a positive drug test result for cannabis metabolites will continue to be viewed as presumptive evidence of impairment. However, this "presumption may be overcome if the employee presents clear or convincing evidence that he or she was not impaired at the time of the test."
Because THC's primary metabolite, carboxy-THC is lipid soluble, residual levels of the compound may persist in urine for weeks or even months post-abstinence. According to the US Department of Justice, a positive urine test screen for drug metabolites "does not indicate abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment."
Earlier this month, members of the DC City Council approved Act Number A23-0114: The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Temporary Amendment Act, which seeks to impose explicit protections for medical cannabis patients against workplace discrimination.
It states: "A public employer may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, penalize, fail to promote, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an individual based upon the individual's status as a qualifying [medical cannabis] patient. … A qualifying patient's failure to pass a public employer-administered drug test for marijuana components or metabolites may not be used as a basis for employment-related decisions unless reasonable suspicion exists that the qualified patients was impaired by marijuana at the qualifying patient's place of employment or during hours of employment." Like all District legislation, the act must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to taking effect.
Additional legislation strengthening employment protections for qualifying patients remains pending before the DC Council.
Utah: Lawmakers Send Medical Cannabis Law Revisions to Governor
Salt Lake City, UT: Members of the Utah House and Senate unanimously approved legislation revising the state's nascent medical cannabis access program during a special legislative session this week.
Under the revised plan, the distribution of medical cannabis products will no longer be overseen by public health regulators. Rather, the state will license as many as 14 private entities throughout the state to dispense cannabis products to authorized patients. The new legislation also permits courier services to engage in cannabis deliveries to those patients who either reside a significant distance from an operating dispensary or who are homebound.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert expressed support for the changes, stating, "The bill will help provide safe and efficient access to an important medical option for patients while also taking public safety into consideration."
This is the second time in less than a year that lawmakers have convened a special session to amend the state's medical cannabis law. Voters in 2018 approved Proposition 2, which legalized the use and dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified patients. Shortly thereafter, lawmakers held a special legislative session where they voted to repeal and replace the initiative law with their own legislation. Specifically, lawmakers eliminated patients' option to home cultivate cannabis, narrowed the list of qualifying conditions, and placed additional restrictions on the dispensing of cannabis products, among other changes.
Washington, DC: School Officials Clarify Policy Permitting Medical Cannabis Use on Campus
Washington, DC: Students with a doctor's authorization will be able to access medical cannabis while attending DC public schools.
Washington, DC Public School officials issued a policy update last week acknowledging that school administrators are authorized to provide non-smoked medical cannabis products to authorized patients while they are on school grounds. Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, advocated for the policy change, according to media reports.
Several other jurisdictions, such as Delaware, Illinois, and Washington, already have instituted similar policies.