Alibi V.29 No.10 • March 5-11, 2020 

Baked Goods

A Fresh Start

New FDA commish comments on CBD

Baked Goods logo (with correct glasses!)

New Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told reporters that banning CBD would be a “fool's game” while making his first public comments about the legally questionable substance.

Hahn told the reporters gathered that he'd recently received a text message from one of his lung cancer patients asking if using CBD to supplement their chemotherapy was safe. He answered that he didn't know and asked if she'd spoken to her doctor about it. Her doctor had said it was safe. “I'm certainly not going to interfere with that decision,” Hahn said. “People are using these products. We’re not going to be able to say you can’t use these products. It’s a fool’s game to try to even approach that … We need to fill the information gaps.”

Hahn went on to describe the “life-saving” effects of Epidiolex—a pharmaceutical that uses CBD as its active ingredient. “So we know that there's some medicinal value there. What about on the other side of the fence? Where could it be of benefit?”

According to Hahn, the FDA is spending a good deal of time examining the evidence and formulating its stance on the subject. “We have to be open to the fact that there might be some value to these products,” he said.

This comment is incredibly encouraging after nearly two years of legal confusion over the drug. CBD is technically illegal to sell in any consumable form. Although hemp was made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill, the law forbids companies from selling chemicals that are used as active ingredients in pharmaceuticals in over-the-counter products. Since CBD is the active ingredient in the above-mentioned Epidiolex, it's technically a regulated substance.

But Marijuana Moment reports that last week, the agency missed a deadline to provide an update on its progress with developing CBD regulations.

Senior Cannabis Use on the Rise

According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, “Trends in Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in the United States, 2015-2018,” cannabis use among seniors over the age of 65 doubled between 2015 and 2018.

“I find it fascinating that people who would never touch an illegal drug are now trying to get it, even if it's just for medical purposes,” study co-author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told reporters. According to CNN, Palamar and his co-author, Benjamin Han, have been analyzing marijuana use among seniors for a decade. The data for the study was taken from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which polled 15,000 Americans who weren't living in an institution.

According to the paper, only 0.4 percent of seniors over 65 reported using marijuana in 2006. By 2015, that number had grown to 2.4 percent, and by 2018, it was a whopping 4.2 percent. The authors said that while the use of other drugs was characterized by positive and negative swings, cannabis use was consistently rising.

And cannabis' health benefits don't seem to be the only reason for the uptick, either. “I was curious to see if it was people who are more sick, with say, multiple chronic conditions, trying cannabis, or is it the healthier people, perhaps with only one health condition,” Han said. “And it appears it's the healthier older people who are trying cannabis more.”

But Han and Palamar are apparently concerned over their findings, allowing their inner school marms to come to the conclusion that seniors should not be experimenting with psychotropic substances. “As a geriatrician, I worry about any kind of prescribed medicine or substance use -- anything that has any kind of psychoactive effects,” Han said. “I worry about things like dizziness, falls. I worry how it may interact with certain medical conditions.”

Somewhere, a wizened matron is puffing on her antique brass pipe and muttering, “Okay, boomer.”

USDA Eases Hemp Rules

Last week, the US Department of Agriculture announced it will be delaying a hemp rule that would limit who could test plants. After facing outcry from critics, the agency said it will wait a full year to implement the rule—which will require farmers to test their plants at labs registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“We are delaying enforcement of these requirements based on comment received in response to the [Interim Final Rule] and in discussions with states and tribes as they pursue USDA-approval of their plans,” said the agency in a press release. “We have learned that these provisions will serve as a significant hindrance to the growth of a domestic hemp market at this nascent stage.” The statement goes on to note that a significant number of hemp farmers will not have access to DEA-approved testing labs this year.

Interestingly, the agency will also be delaying a rule that requires farmers to dispose of hemp that tests above 0.3 percent THC (is it still called “hemp” at that point?) using DEA-approved methods, because the associated costs could hinder growth and discourage fresh blood from entering the marketplace. Until a final rule is enacted, farmers are given the option of disposing of the offending plants using “common on-farm practices as a means of disposal while rendering the controlled substance non-retrievable or non-ingestible”including plowing under, mulching, deep burial, burning and other methods.

The two rules will remain in limbo until Oct. 31, 2021, or the publication of the final rule, whichever occurs first.

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