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Hemp industry experiences boosts and roadblocks

Updated January 9, 2019 - 10:18 pm

The industrial hemp industry in Nevada and other parts of the country was set to see growth as President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill.

The move essentially legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp across the U.S., though some roadblocks may be ahead for portions of the overall industry.

Just following Trump signing the farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, into law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced some limitations for hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD oil.

According to a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in December, the federal agency kept its regulatory control over “products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act,” even with the new legislation being signed into law.

Under the guise that CBD is a drug ingredient, Gottlieb stated that CBD is illegal to add to food or health products without getting approval from the federal agency.

“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” Gottlieb put in his Dec. 20, 2018 statement.

CBD is non-psychoactive or won’t cause a high. CBD oil, carried in many locations throughout Southern and Northern Nevada, is often sold for medicinal reasons: anticonvulsants, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and for other purposes.

Not everything derived from hemp plants is off limits by the FDA.

“We are announcing that the agency has completed our evaluation of three Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) notices related to hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein and hemp seed oil and that the agency had no questions regarding the company’s conclusion that the use of such products as described in the notices is safe,” a statement from the FDA read. “Therefore, these products can be legally marketed in human foods for these uses without food additive approval, provided they comply with all other requirements and do not make disease treatment claims.”

Gottlieb’s statement also read that “while products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds remain subject to the FDA’s authorities and requirements, there are pathways available for those who seek to lawfully introduce these products into interstate commerce. The FDA will continue to take steps to make the pathways for the lawful marketing of these products more efficient.”

In June 2018, the FDA approved a drug known as “Epidiolex, that contains cannabis-derived CBD for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy,” the statement read.

Industrial hemp in Nevada

Trump’s signature did give the industrial hemp industry a list of positives.

Industrial hemp was removed from the federal government’s controlled substances list. This action removes several barriers for growers, including access to banking and crop insurance, just to name a couple.

According to a Dec. 14, 2018 report in the Pahrump Valley Times, “As of the time of an inquiry to the state’s department of agriculture in mid-September, Pahrump had 16 growers working on 84 acres of outdoor grow area and across 40,0776 square feet of indoor farming space.”

Also noted in that report was the “overall Nye County area, in the same time frame, the state’s agriculture department reported having 45 registered growers that were working across 865 acres of outdoor area and on 70,000 square feet of indoor space.”

Nevada’s industrial hemp industry got kick-started through the 2014 farm bill, which allowed for the growing of industrial hemp for research purposes through universities or state departments of agriculture. In the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session, Senate Bill 305 was passed and signed into law that gave the green light to the Nevada Department of Agriculture to implement a research-based program.

In the first year of its implementation (2016), the research program brought about an approval for four acres in the Pahrump area to grow hemp with 59 acres approved across Nye County in 2016, according to an Aug. 11, 2017 report in the Times.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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