Federal farm bill could boost CBD industry

FILE - Cannabis, CBD, Oil, Wax, Medicinal

The federal government doesn’t appear ready to deal with the lingering legal questions of marijuana, but hemp is another matter.

Kevin Liebrock, chief operating officer at Bluebird Botanicals in Colorado, said the federal farm bill, will in all likelihood, legalize hemp as a cash crop.

“When you have someone like U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has been a die-hard conservative for a long time, and he’s supporting hemp,” Liebrock said. “I think that shows we’ve reached a tipping point for sure.”

Lex Pelger, chief science officer with Bluebird, said hemp can be used in everything from clothing to fiber. But he said the market for growth will be cannabidiol oil. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is extract that has been used to treat seizures, pain and other things.

Pelger said CBD oil is already available in most states, including Illinois. But because it’s associated with marijuana there is a stigma.

Hemp CBD, he said, could change that.

“If you’re trying to introduce this into places that haven’t had an experience with cannabis, and are really scared of it,” Pelger explained. “Hemp is a really great way to get started.”

Pelger said hemp CBD and marijuana-based CBD are almost identical. In fact, he said hemp CBD may provide more benefits for treating seizures and other medical conditions.

Illinois just legalized CBD for use in schools, but it must be administered by a parent.

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U.S. approves first prescription drug made from marijuana

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The FDA approved a CBD-based medication to treat two rare forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood

WASHINGTON — U.S. health regulators on Monday approved the first prescription drug made from marijuana, a milestone that could spur more research into a drug that remains illegal under federal law, despite growing legalization for recreational and medical use.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the medication, called Epidiolex, to treat two rare forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood. But it’s not quite medical marijuana.

The strawberry-flavored syrup is a purified form of a chemical ingredient found in the cannabis plant — but not the one that gets users high. It’s not yet clear why the ingredient, called cannabidiol, or CBD, reduces seizures in some people with epilepsy.

British drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals studied the drug in more than 500 children and adults with hard-to-treat seizures, overcoming numerous legal hurdles that have long stymied research into cannabis.

FDA officials said the drug reduced seizures when combined with older epilepsy drugs.

The FDA has previously approved synthetic versions of another cannabis ingredient for medical use, including severe weight loss in patients with HIV.

Epidiolex is essentially a pharmaceutical-grade version CBD oil, which some parents already use to treat children with epilepsy. CBD is one of more than 100 chemicals found in marijuana. But it doesn’t contain THC, the ingredient that gives marijuana its mind-altering effect.

Physicians say it’s important to have a consistent, government-regulated version.

“I’m really happy we have a product that will be much cleaner and one that I know what it is,” said Ellaine Wirrell, director of the Mayo Clinic’s program for childhood epilepsy. “In the artisanal products there’s often a huge variation in doses from bottle to bottle depending on where you get it.”

Side effects with the drug include diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and sleep problems.

Several years ago, Allison Hendershot considered relocating her family to Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana and home to a large network of CBD producers and providers. Her 13-year-old daughter, Molly, has suffered from severe seizures since she was 4 months old. But then Hendershot learned about a trial of Epidiolex at New York University.

“I preferred this to some of those other options because it’s is a commercial product that has gone through rigorous testing,” said Hendershot, who lives in Rochester, New York.

Since receiving Epidiolex, Hendershot says her daughter has been able to concentrate more and has had fewer “drop” seizures — in which her entire body goes limp and collapses.

CBD oil is currently sold online and in specialty shops across the U.S., though its legal status remains murky. Most producers say their oil is made from hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that contains little THC and can be legally farmed in a number of states for clothing, food and other uses.

The impact of Monday’s approval on these products is unclear.

The FDA has issued warnings to CBD producers that claimed their products could treat specific diseases, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s. Only products that have received formal FDA approval can make such claims, typically requiring clinical trials costing millions.

Most CBD producers sidestep the issue by making only broad claims about general health and well-being.

Industry supporters downplayed the impact of the FDA approval.

“I don’t know a mom or dad in their right mind who is going to change what’s already working,” said Heather Jackson, CEO of Realm of Caring, a charitable group affiliated with Colorado-based CW Hemp, one of nation’s largest CBD companies. “I really don’t think it’s going to affect us much.”

Jackson’s group estimates the typical family using CBD to treat childhood epilepsy spends about $1,800 per year on the substance.

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A GW Pharmaceuticals spokeswoman said the company would not immediately announce a price for the drug, which it expects to launch in the fall. Wall Street analysts have previously predicted it could cost $25,000 per year, with annual sales eventually reaching $1 billion.

For their part, GW Pharmaceuticals executives say they are not trying to disrupt products already on the market. The company has pushed legislation in several states to make sure its drug can be legally sold and prescribed.

The FDA approval for Epidiolex is technically limited to patients with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, two rare forms of epilepsy for which there are few treatments. But doctors will have the option to prescribe it for other uses.

The new medication enters an increasingly complicated legal environment for marijuana.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Another 20 states allow medical marijuana, but the U.S. government continues to classify it as a controlled substance with no medical use, in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Despite increasing acceptance, there is little rigorous research on the benefits and harms of marijuana. Last year a government-commissioned group concluded that the lack of scientific information about marijuana and CBD poses a risk to public health.

Before sales of Epidiolex can begin, the Drug Enforcement Administration must formally reclassify CBD into a different category of drugs that have federal medical approval.

GW Pharmaceuticals makes the drug in the U.K. from cannabis plants that are specially bred to contain high levels of CBD. And the company plans to continue importing the medicine, bypassing onerous U.S. regulations on manufacturing restricted substances.

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CBD store owner provides unique perspective on medical marijuana debate

OKLAHOMA CITY – As the state of Oklahoma nears the medical marijuana vote – a tale of two perspectives.

One of them is a doctor and state senator who supports medical marijuana but not State Question 788. The other is the owner of a CBD store who said he will vote yes but there is a twist.

EJ Bancroft sells CBD products at his CannaHealth of Oklahoma stores. He said he will be voting for SQ 788 and will sell some of the products it legalizes.

However, he said you’ll never see smokable marijuana on his shelves.

“There’s nothing you can get from smoking pot that you can’t get from any of these products,” Bancroft said.

He said, when a person smokes marijuana, the effect is more psychoactive than medicinal.

He said that’s because the consumer gets higher levels of THC than CBD due to the simplicity of its processing as compared to that of infused products.

“There’s no extraction processes, quality control, anything like that,” Bancroft said. “You just cut it from the plant, stick it in a jar and sell it to the end user.”

Bancroft said he thinks SQ 788 is too vague in terms of regulations but will still vote yes on Tuesday in hopes more regulations will be added.

“It’s not like we’re going to vote it in tomorrow and, the next day, everybody’s walking the streets smoking a joint,” he said. “It’s not going to work that way.”

Senator Ervin Yen, who is a doctor, authored a bill in the past to legalize medical marijuana and the bill that legalized CBD, but he is voting no on SQ 788.

“I’m for CBD and medical marijuana,” Yen said. “That’s why I wrote a medical marijuana bill two years ago, but I’m absolutely opposed to 788 because it’s not medical.”

Yen also has concerns with the regulations. He believes the specifications on which physicians can prescribe it are too vague and thinks there need to be specific qualifying conditions for the use of the drug.

“It needs to be treated like any other drugs that doctors prescribe,” Yen said.

Bancroft said, come Tuesday, his vote is still yes.

“There’s always going to be a reason to not vote it in, so it’s now or never,” he said.

In reference to the regulations they have concerns over, there are plans in the works to address them.

Bud Scott, the director of New Health Solutions of Oklahoma, which funds the ‘Yes on 788 Campaign,’ said the organization has prepared more than 300 pages of proposed regulations if the state question passes.

Governor Fallin also said she expects to call lawmakers back for a special session if it passes.

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Oregon’s Booming CBD Market Readies For A Crackdown

The first rendering from hemp plants extracted from a super critical CO2 extraction device on its way to becoming fully refined CBD oil spurts into a large beaker at New Earth Biosciences in Salem, Oregon.
The first rendering from hemp plants extracted from a super critical CO2 extraction device on its way to becoming fully refined CBD oil spurts into a large beaker at New Earth Biosciences in Salem, Oregon.

The market for the non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabisCBD — is growing rapidly.

But there’s concern its medical effects are being oversold.

CBD is marketed for everything from back pain to multiple sclerosis, and often appears in products like creams and chocolates.

Speaking on OPB’s “Think Out Loud,” attorney Amy Margolis said the cannabis market is exploding.

“We’re seeing CBD oil that’s being imported. We’re seeing CBD oil that’s being derived from hemp that’s cultivated here. And everywhere we turn, we’re seeing new CBD products; we see them on Amazon, we see them in grocery stores,” Margolis said. “But because nobody’s tracking that information, it’s hard for us to grasp the enormity of the market.”

Still, Margolis is expecting a regulatory crackdown over all the medical claims being made for CBD.

“I think we’ll see this backlash happen in two places. From state departments of justice and I then think we’ll see that on a federal level, assuming we don’t see some other broad action to help regulate it,” she said.

 

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