To meet the surging demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, a derivative of hemp, farmers have invested heavily in replacing the low profit soybeans hay or tobacco with high yield hemp. Hemp became legal to cultivate in the US last year after the passage of the farm bill. Many farmers have secured contracts with buyers before the growing season while others rolled the dice.

According to Brightfield Group growers in 36 states planted hemp to a tune of 285,000 acres from 78,000 in 2018. This increased cultivation contributed to a 42%-53% decline in prices. A huge learning curve caused many farmers to miss turning a profit. Regulatory uncertainty with licensing, record-keeping, testing, the normal learning curve of soil conditions, cultivation and extraction has left farmers unable to unload their product.

This past year has seen an explosion of infused CBD in creams teas coffee candy beer soda vitamins and tinctures advertised for medicinal use. Local stores like Albertson’s, Walgreens, smoke shops, online websites, naturalist, chiropractors, dermatologists and acupuncturist are advertising/selling the medical benefits of CBD. The U.S. Department of Agriculture who is responsible for regulating hemp products federally has stepped up enforcement in hemp advertising. The FDA has approved only one drug containing CBD, Epidiolex, for medical use.


The conundrum for the public is discerning medical grade cannabis sold in the dispensaries from medical grade cannabis sold as an FDA hemp food product. Cannabaceae is the plant nomenclature for the hemp family of plants. The Genus Cannabis L or hemp is the spindly leaves plant. The Species Cannabis Sativa L. is the broad leaf plant with the slang label marijuana. There are over 2000 Variety Cannabis sativa L. species. The scientific descriptions sativa and indica are no longer used due to the breeding of the THC and/or change of CBD:THC ratios. Currently cannabis nomenclature is described as Cultivar 1 (high THC low CBD), Cultivar 2 (balanced THC: CBD) and Cultivar 3 (low THC high CBD).

Hemp is being cultivated to remove the THC moving it out of the dispensaries into drug stores, gas stations, online websites and more as a food supplement. Hemp free THC is yet to be regulated like hemp marijuana. Learning to discern a medical grade product can be daunting. It’s all in the compliance with regulations and labeling. The label should state potency, 10mg/ml. The dropper should be scored for milligrams/milliliters (mg/ml). It should be tested for metal, pesticides, mold, bacteria. The label should also state the various cannabinoids by percentage and how to dose. The validity of and medical benefits derived from creams, tea, coffee, beer, soda is not researched. CBD is not a panacea.

Treat hemp oil CBD from a smoke shop with the same jaundiced eye as marijuana from the dispensary. First ask for the test results. Do not take a tincture from a hemp product to use with a vape pen. The ingredients in the tincture may not be safely smoked. This practice is exactly what started the vape pen crisis. CA has a history of regulating marijuana safely since 1996. The U.S. Agriculture Department is only starting this process this year. State level agriculture departments are new to this oversight.

Because of the plethora of products on November 25, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing cannabidiol (CBD) in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The FDA also published a revised Consumer Update detailing safety concerns about CBD products more broadly. Based on the lack of scientific information supporting the safety of CBD in food, the FDA is indicating in their Nov. 25th announcement that it cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food. While the science of the plant demonstrates it is safe to ingest the hyperbole in advertising these hemp infused products is overblown. Go to the FDA press release website for more information.

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Ruth Hill consults, and lectures on medical cannabis