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Virginia Passes Bill to Regulate CBD Consumption in Food

Virginia Governor Northam Delivers Annual State Of The Commonwealth Address

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia made news in the hemp industry recently by signing a bill that explicitly defines hemp extract, including CBD, as food.  

You might be wondering how this is big news. After all, isn’t CBD already being added to food?


Well, yes. It is. But, as with many things in the CBD industry, it’s complicated.


CBD was officially legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, but the CBD industry has been waiting on tenterhooks for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to decide how they are going to regulate the substance.


Among the top lingering questions is how the federal agency will regulate CBD as a food additive. This is largely in question because CBD isolate has already been approved by the FDA as a pharmaceutical substance (in the drug Epidiolex), which would normally rule it out as a food additive.


The uncertainty has caused considerable instability in the CBD market, with CBD companies cautiously investing in products that could possibly be ruled out by the FDA’s future regulations. As well, this state of limbo continues to keep banks from wanting to invest in CBD businesses for fear that their investment will come to naught once the FDA rules do come out.


But Virginia’s new law throws a bone to the state’s hemp industry. Essentially, it gives a measure of security to businesses wanting to invest in the substance.


It also means that state officials will have the power to regulate production and facility standards, creating a common set of requirements that CBD companies will have to conform to. This lends a sense of legitimacy to an industry that has been, until now, infamous for its lack of consistent standards.

If the FDA does not start approving CBD products, people are going to take them without regulation

said Kyle Shreve, executive director of the Virginia Agribusiness Council in an interview with the Associated Press. “That’s what the bill says, we are going to treat them like they are approved by the FDA so we can start regulating them.

State officials are, of course, concerned about the effects of unregulated CBD products on the health of their residents. But they have a further reason for wanting to encourage Virginia’s hemp industry. 


“Right now we are losing tobacco and dairy farms in the commonwealth, so it is another opportunity for Virginia producers to diversify and grow something that would help sustain their business,” Shreve said.


Cannabis regulation reform has been a bit of a theme in Virginia this year. This was just one of three bills signed by Gov. Northam, regulating hemp in the state. A second bill (HB 962) regulates smokable hemp products and allows their sale in vending machines, while SB 1015 provides protection for those involved with the state’s medical cannabis program.


And Gov. Northam isn’t finished yet. Still in the process are two bills that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and allow for the expungement of a prior misdemeanor offense.

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