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Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

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Recent News

Both the U.S. Senate and the House have approved bills aimed at making it easier for researchers to gain access to cannabis for scientific study. While it’s not a sure thing, the bipartisan support for furthering marijuana research in both arms of Congress only increases the likelihood that we’ll see some sort of research bill passed.

The House’s Medical Marijuana Research Act won’t be presented to Congress this session; so to become law, it will have to pass through the House again as well as the Senate during the next session. But the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act passed in the Senate last week, and all it needs to open a path to President Trump’s desk is immediate approval in the House.

The bill would allow researchers to gain access to marijuana for testing through an application process. Researchers would be given a pathway through which to request larger amounts of the drug than are currently allowed.

The bill would also encourage the development of FDA-approved drugs derived from cannabis by allowing accredited scientists and institutions to research the plant and mandating that the Drug Enforcement Administration manage the application process for manufacturers to produce cannabis-derived FDA-approved drugs.

According to a press release from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s authors, “Existing regulations make medical marijuana research difficult and have prevented us from understanding exactly how medical marijuana can be used safely and effectively to treat various conditions. Our bill streamlines the research process and paves the way for marijuana-derived medications that are FDA-approved to treat serious medical conditions, like intractable epilepsy, in a way that will keep consumers safe.”

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate.

But some critics have pointed out that, unlike the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act will not allow researchers to gain access to cannabis produced in actual medical cannabis markets. Instead, they will be forced to use plants produced exclusively for federal research at the University of Mississippi—plants that are well-known as being of sub-par quality.

That small difference alone might make the House ignore the Senate’s bill altogether and wait until 2021 when its bill can be reintroduced.

Hemp Celebrates Two Rocky Years

It seems like only yesterday since Lame Duck President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, a group of policies governing farming and food programs in the U.S. The bill also just happened to legalize hemp by differentiating it from “marijuana.”

In the last two years, we’ve seen the hemp industry stumble and move forward in equal measures. While some of the struggles have been the natural growing pains of a burgeoning market, much of them have resulted from unclear policies and a lack of leadership from federal agencies.

Plain old excitement managed to do some damage as well. Overzealous market predictions led to a gross oversupply of hemp plants in 2019, driving the price for hemp products down in 2020 and cutting production by a significant amount.

COVID-19 didn’t help much either. The pandemic had a much different effect on the hemp market than it did on the cannabis market. With an overabundance of supply on stock, many farmers were counting on capitalizing on the CBD boom of 2019. Unfortunately, supplement consumers have turned away from CBD products amid coronavirus scares and have been purchasing immunity supplements instead.

What does the future have in store? That’s a mighty fine question, and a hard one to answer. A lot depends on whether the CBD industry can limp back to the same place it occupied this time last year. The problem is that the federal Food and Drug Administration has yet to lift its ban on over-the-counter CBD consumables, and the overall novelty has worn off.

It would be a good time for the hemp industry to find alternative markets to sell their products in, however. After all, hemp’s industrial applications have been talking points for advocates since the ’60s.

Feds Announce CBD Crackdown

As if the CBD industry weren’t facing enough problems, the Federal Trade Commission just announced that it would be enforcing laws against CBD companies that make unsubstantiated health claims to market their products.

According to a press release from the federal agency, the FTC is taking action against six CBD companies it has accused of making “a wide range of scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and others.”

The FTC is ordering all six companies to stop making these claims immediately and says some will be ordered to pay monetary judgments to the agency. The list of offending companies includes Bionatrol Health, Epic House, CBD Meds, HempmeCBD, Reef Industries and Steves Distributing.

“The six settlements announced today send a clear message to the burgeoning CBD industry: Don’t make spurious health claims that are unsupported by medical science,” said Andrew Smith, sirector of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you hear from the FTC.”

The press release says that the crackdown, dubbed “Operation CBDeceit,” is part of the Commission’s “ongoing effort to protect consumers from false, deceptive and misleading health claims made in advertisements on websites and through social media companies such as Twitter.”

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