WASHINGTON (TNS) — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer pushed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday to “immediately” issue regulations on the use and sale of popular hemp-based cannabidiol products, a flourishing new industry in Upstate New York.

Thanks to a state pilot program and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hundreds of New York farmers grow hemp, a cannabis plant strain with low-levels of the psychoactive component of marijuana.

Many hemp farmers and processors produce cannabidiol (CBD) oils, tinctures, pills, foods and beverages. The hemp industry saw sales of CBD products — which some people claim have mental and physical health benefits — surpass $200 million nationally in 2018.

But consumers, farmers and producers are operating in a hazy landscape as they wait for the FDA to clear up questions about how CBD can be safely and legally consumed. Other than one prescription drug product to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any other CBD products for use in food or drugs or as dietary supplements.

Still, many of the products are readily available on retail shelves in New York.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, believes the absence of clear federal guidelines is holding back the CBD and hemp industry in the state and exposing CBD users to potential health risks.

“The lack of regulatory clarity is creating a real fog for farmers, producers and manufacturers,” Schumer said. “CBD is not explicitly illegal, but there are no guidelines as to where you can use it and where you can’t.”

Schumer urged the FDA to expedite its evaluation of CBD and issue regulations soon. The 68-year-old does not use CBD himself, but has a “close relative” who does, he said.

But consumers, farmers and producers are operating in a hazy landscape as they wait for the FDA to clear up questions about how CBD can be safely and legally consumed. Schumer blamed delays in completing health studies and issuing regulations on inadequate staffing at the FDA. Ten months have passed since the Farm Bill was signed, and the FDA should “get it done,” Schumer said. Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have issued similar calls.

The FDA has been working to answer health questions about CBD and determine how to govern the marketing and sale of it for months. The agency has held public hearings and solicited stakeholder comments on CBD. It has issued warnings to companies making unsubstantiated claims about health benefits of CBD.

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)

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