The push to better regulate hemp and CBD products in New York began more than one year ago, and it began with Assembly member Donna Lupardo.
As hemp production boomed upstate and unregulated CBD products hit shelves across New York City, from cafes to smoke shops to standalone CBD retailers, the Broome County lawmaker told Cannabis Wire at the time that she had introduced legislation to regulate these products because “we have to do something.”
In December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to establish regulations for the production and sale of hemp and hemp extracts in the state. This week, nearly one year later, the New York State Department of Health released those regulations, which were expected in mid-July, but delayed, like many things, by COVID-19. The regulations will land on the NYS Register on November 10, and the public comment window will be open until January 11, 2021.
On Tuesday, Assembly member Lupardo & Senator Jen Metzger released a joint statement about the “much anticipated” regulations.
“With these regulations, we have the ability to create a consumer-friendly, national model. While we are still reviewing these regulations, we are happy with the inclusion of extracts in food and beverage. However, the ban on the sale of CBD flower is already a cause of concern for us and for existing businesses with established product lines,” they said, adding that they urge public comment “so that issues and concerns can be expressed.”
These regulations come as businesses across the country eagerly await word from the Food and Drug Administration about CBD products. The 2018 Farm Bill removed cannabis plants with .3% THC or less, also known as hemp, from the Controlled Substances Act, catalyzing the hemp industry nationwide. While the USDA has been tasked with regulating hemp production, the FDA has spent months holding public hearings and accepting public comment as it decides which non-pharmaceutical products can contain CBD, and how much.
That a state with the population and influence of New York is poised to green-light CBD in food and drink, in vapes, in cosmetics, and in supplements, could encourage other states to do the same. Though, the exclusion of hemp flower, also known as smokable hemp, will likely draw plenty of public comment. As Cannabis Wire has reported, states are divided on smokable hemp, with some lawmakers embracing the trend and others moving to ban it.
After a flurry of growth in 2019, the state’s hemp industry has been in a limbo in 2020, in part due to the delayed regulations. (Another factor was uncertainty over the future of the state’s hemp program, which was expected to transition from 2014 Farm Bill regulations to 2018 Farm Bill regulations this month, but states were granted a one year extension.)
Lupardo told Cannabis Wire in June that she communicated to Cuomo that the state has an entire industry of growers, processors, manufacturers, and retailers who are “anxiously waiting” for the rules to be released.
“We have a whole industry on pause. And it has been exacerbated by the surplus that was grown last year,” Lupardo said, adding that the surplus adds an “urgency” to the situation.
Over the past year, the state has made efforts to accommodate the booming hemp industry. The New York State Departments of Health and Agriculture and Markets announced last November, for example, that the state’s medical cannabis license holders will be able to use hemp and hemp extracts produced under the state’s Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program to “produce cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids for approved medical marijuana products.” As Cannabis Wire reported, agriculture commissioner Richard Ball said this move gives hemp farmers “another market for their products.”
“It’s kind of a perfect storm, in terms of COVID and then also the lack of regulations and oversupply of hemp on the market, both in New York state and nationally,” Allan Gandelman, president of the New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association, told Cannabis Wire in June. “Some farmers have decided not to grow hemp this year. And some farmers have decided to scale back, which is very different from 2019, when people were scaling up their operations and growing a lot of acres across the state.”
One of those companies that scaled back is Canopy Growth, one of the world’s highest-valued cannabis companies, which had unveiled a hemp park in upstate New York last year. This April, the company announced that it would halt growing in New York, “due to an abundance of hemp produced in the 2019 growing season,” and would instead use existing supply to “produce hemp-derived CBD products for the US market.”