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CBD Crackdown Raises Legal, Policy Questions


Hemp plants. Image: Nevada Department of Agriculture.

The State of Nevada is not taking enforcement action against non-THC CBD edibles in Nevada. But two county governments are. Reno chocolatier Dorinda’s Chocolates had its CBD chocolates seized by the Washoe County Health District last month.

It was a move that critics said was an overreach by the district. Health district officials prevented Dorinda’s from selling $60,000 worth of CBD products.

“We have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in this — our equipment and whatnot. It has affected us severely,” said Dorinda Vance, Dorinda’s owner.

County officials said that they began enforcing specific regulations, including FDA rules, after a phone meeting with the state early this year.

“On January 3, 2019, WCHD staff participated in a state-wide conference call regarding the increase in questions from food establishment operators interested in adding industrial hemp,” said Brittany Dayton, with the Health District. “Food establishments are subject to the requirements of existing regulations. Prior to taking any action on food establishments serving or selling CBD food products, the WCHD consulted with representatives of the State of Nevada Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) who confirmed that CBD is still not permitted in food products per current Federal and State regulations.”

A local brand of CBD chocolate can no longer be purchased in Washoe County. The Health District says it has authority over such sales, and CBD is not approved for human consumption. Similar products are easily purchased in the county and online.

But state health officials said that they are not enforcing those regulations, only that DHHS will be developing new rules for edible CBD products.

“SB 209 requires us to develop regulations related to CBD in food products. We are in the process of engaging with stakeholders to develop them,” said Martha Framsted, DHHS spokesperson.

The federal government appears mostly concerned with the interstate commerce of CBD products, particularly if health claims are being made.

“Under the FD&C Act, it’s illegal to introduce drug ingredients like these into the food supply, or to market them as dietary supplements,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “This is true regardless of the source of the substance, including whether the substance is derived from a plant that is classified as hemp under the Agriculture Improvement Act.”

Legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana have put CBD products into a legal grey area; despite their questionable status, such products are widely available online and in many local stores.

State-level regulations not yet developed

The Nevada Department of Taxation only regulates CBD products sold at cannabis dispensaries. That’s the only way, according to the department, that CBD products can be sold in Nevada.

“CBD can only be used as an ingredient in usable marijuana or as a concentrate,” said Ky Plaskon with the Department of Taxation (disclosure: Plaskon periodically submits voluntarily written articles to ThisisReno). “Licensed Marijuana Production facilities that wish to produce CBD must be certified by the Nevada Department of Agriculture.”

The Department of Agriculture, however, said its role was overseeing processing raw hemp, the non-hallucinogenic crop.

“The Nevada Department of Agriculture is responsible for the oversight of agricultural production and limited processing of raw hemp,” said NDA spokesperson Ciara Ressel. “The NDA does not regulate processed products for consumption; however, the Food and Drug Administration does regulate processed products intended for human consumption.”

Dayton, with the county health district, added that only the health department has oversight of such products in Washoe County.

“Nine establishments have been issued an order to cease and desist selling food products containing CBD,” she said. The orders are only issued if complaints are received.

The state’s largest health district, Southern Nevada Health District, has not been as aggressive as Washoe County’s health department. Jennifer Sizemore with the Southern Nevada Health District said that it has only issued five cease-and-desist orders to businesses under its jurisdiction.

The state health department said that it will be clarifying the state-level regulations of CBD products but that it will follow federal rules.

“We plan to follow guidance in the Farm Act and from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Framsted added.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.