There has been a growing interest in consumer products derived from cannabis and its components including cannabidiol (CBD) among the Reno/Sparks area food and beverage industry. While the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) acknowledges the interest in these possibilities, it is the responsibility of this agency to protect the health and safety of Washoe County consumers.
Please be advised that according to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD is considered an unapproved food additive and is not permitted for use in human food/beverages or dietary substances. Until the FDA rules that CBD products can be used in food, or the State of Nevada makes a determination that CBD products are safe to use for human consumption, food found to contain CBD oil will be considered adulterated per Section 010.015 of the Regulations of the District Board of Health Governing Food Establishments. A cease and desist order will be issued to any food establishment in Washoe County found to be adding CBD products as ingredients in food.
The FDA food additives standards do not apply to bottles of CBD oil or CBD-infused creams not intended for human consumption.
As an alternative to CBD products, the FDA completed its evaluation of three generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notices for hemp seed-derived food ingredients. The following ingredients are GRAS under their intended use conditions and are permitted for use as ingredients in food: hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil.
CBD in food: What’s legal and what’s safe
Learn about the gray area that is CBD legality, and the FDA’s stance on CBD as a food additive.
CBD : It can cure migraines, eliminate anxiety , help you sleep at night and even prevent cognitive decline — or so the manufacturers of CBD-infused food and drinks say. The FDA, on the other hand, is not so sure.
As CBD continues to gain popularity as the ostensible token to perfect health, more and more startups are producing their own versions of CBD seltzers, snack bars, chocolates and gummies. While these CBD-infused products might taste good, without FDA approval as a food ingredient, there’s no way to truly know if what you’re consuming is safe — or if the product label is even accurate.
Here’s what you should know about those CBD beverages and snacks you might see at your local drug store or supermarket.
This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You shouldn’t do things that are illegal — this story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical compound that comes from the cannabis plant. It’s not the only cannabinoid — scientists know of more than 100 compounds from the cannabinoid family — but it certainly seems to be the most popular. Other than delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, of course: the one that provides a “high.”
You can now find CBD in all sorts of beverages, from soda and coffee to tea and beer.
Why do companies put CBD in food and drinks?
After the 2018 US Farm Bill made hemp farming legal as long as plants contain less than 0.3% THC, products with CBD began flooding both virtual and brick-and-mortar shelves. Tinctures, capsules, snack bars, beverages, body oils, pain-relief salves and more — all infused with CBD — soared in popularity.
CBD became so popular because of its purported health benefits. Here are some of the claims:
- Increased focus and productivity
- Decreased anxiety; increased relaxation
- Pain relief
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Healthier alternative to alcohol
- Helps overcome smoking and drug addiction
- Clears up acne breakouts
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
- Protects against cancer
- Improves sleep
As you may have picked up yourself, some of those claims sound pretty outrageous. Well, as it turns out, there’s very little — and in some cases, zero — valid scientific evidence to support them.
Despite that, companies are aware of consumers’ desire for natural, plant-based remedies to health concerns like anxiety and insomnia. And so CBD-infused food and drinks became a thing.
Orally ingesting CBD may be more dangerous than people think.
Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt /AFP/Getty Images
Are CBD foods and drinks safe?
As of yet, there is no definitive answer as to whether it’s safe to consume CBD. And because there’s no definitive answer, the FDA’s stance on CBD as a food additive is just plain “no.”
The FDA has only approved one CBD product for oral consumption, — a prescription-only drug to treat two rare and serious forms of epilepsy. CBD is not approved as a food additive, and it’s illegal to market any food products or dietary supplements with CBD. This includes the oodles of CBD-infused seltzers that have become so popular in the last couple of years,
The FDA has taken this stance on CBD food and drinks because there’s a lack of scientific data on whether or not CBD is safe to consume. The agency says it’s only seen limited data and the data that does exist actually “point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.” Health officials are concerned that CBD has long-term health effects that might not show symptoms for years, and thus the FDA has not added it to the “generally recognized as safe” list of food additives.
What’s more, because CBD is currently a relatively unregulated ingredient (other than, you know, the fact that it’s illegal to market), some products make health and medical claims that may not be true and may use ingredients of unknown quality.
The bottom line: CBD food and drinks are not known to be safe, and consuming them before there’s valid data available could result in health complications later in life.
- Liver injury
- Male reproductive issues
- Unsafe interactions with other drugs and medications
- and childbirth complications
Adding CBD oil to drinks isn’t proven to be safe, and is currently illegal under the FDA’s rules.
Are CBD drinks legal?
Just to clarify: No. CBD is illegal in foods, drinks, capsules, ingestible oils and any other form of consumable product. Until the FDA adds CBD to the “generally recognized as safe” list, it will remain illegal to market and sell CBD-infused products as foods, drinks and supplements.
In 2019 alone, the FDA sent warning letters to more than 20 companies selling CBD products, demanding that they remove or remedy their various health and medical claims. Despite all this, CBD companies and industry experts don’t expect CBD products to go anywhere.
As for the legality of CBD ointments, topical oils and other products — as well as the geographical legality of CBD — well, it’s all a big, fuzzy gray area .
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Hemp in Food FAQs
The use of hemp in food products has continued to increase in popularity. The information below is to provide background on the variety of hemp products and clarify what is and what is not legal in Minnesota.
Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, is the plant species Cannabis staiva L that is bred to have a low concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants and products must meet the acceptable THC level (at or less than 0.3% delta-9 THC) to be considered hemp. Hemp is not a “relative” of marijuana. Rather, the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” are legal definitions for the same genus and species of plants. The only difference between the two is the concentration of THC in the plant.
Many products can come from the hemp plant. Hemp seeds can be harvested from the plant, pressed into hemp seed oil, or ground into hemp seed protein powder. Fiber can be made from the hemp stalk, which can be used in materials like textiles, clothing, or insulation. Additionally, a variety of plant extracts can come from the flower of the hemp plant, including cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and a variety of terpenes (aromatic compounds).
Yes, growing and transporting hemp is legal in Minnesota. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that adding certain hemp extracts to foods, including CBD, is prohibited. The 2018 Federal Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, separating it from marijuana. Hemp is now a recognized agricultural crop across the United States, which allows for the interstate transport of the seed, plants, and processed hemp products.
Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is a cannabinoid and the main psychoactive component of cannabis plants – the compound from the plant that causes a “high”. Cannabis containing psychoactive levels of THC is commonly called marijuana. THC is a controlled substance and cannot exist in the plant or any hemp product above 0.3% on a dry weight basis in Minnesota. THC is illegal in Minnesota, except for approved medical use. Medical marijuana or medical cannabis is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). More information can be found on the MDH Medical Cannabis website.
Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC) is a psychoactive and intoxicating substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Delta-8 THC is different than delta-9 THC, which is illegal in Minnesota. However, delta-8 THC causes psychoactive or intoxicating effects like delta-9 THC (a “high”) and has been marketed as “diet weed” or “weed light”. Products containing delta-8 THC should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use and may be marketed in ways that put public health at risk. Delta-8 THC products are not approved for use in food and beverage products and these products cannot be sold in Minnesota.
The FDA and CDC have taken the initiative to provide consumers with more information about delta-8 THC due to the concerns mentioned above and an uptick in adverse event reports. Between January of 2018 and July of 2021, poison control centers nationwide have received 661 reported exposure cases, with 18% requiring hospitalization. Of the reports, 39% were pediatric patients (less than 18 years of age).
For more information, including resources for reporting adverse reactions, see the bulletin issued by the FDA and the Health Advisory issued by the CDC.
While there is no legal definition of “cannabinoid” in federal or state law, for the purposes of this document, cannabinoid refers to any of the phytocannabinoids produced by the hemp plant. “Phyto” means that the cannabinoid is naturally occurring in the plant (versus synthetic cannabinoids). Phytocannabinoids can be extracted from plan tissues and formulated into products if they meet the criteria specified in Minnesota Statute. The most common cannabinoids currently being processed from hemp in Minnesota are cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN); however, there are over 100 cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.
While some hemp extracts and cannabinoids are legal in Minnesota (like CBD), they are not allowed to be added to food products, beverages, or dietary supplements. Food and drink manufacturers cannot add cannabinoids to their products in Minnesota, and food products containing cannabinoids (even made outside of the state) cannot be sold in Minnesota. It is also not allowed to sell a cannabinoid product alongside a food item for the consumer to add themselves. The only hemp products allowed in food in Minnesota come from the seed of the hemp plant (hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein powder, or hemp seed oil).
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy regulates hemp extracts and cannabinoids in Minnesota. More information can be found in their April 2020 FAQ document at the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy website.
Over the past decade, there has been growing interest in the development of therapies and other consumer products derived from hemp extracts. Minnesota regulatory agencies are committed to protecting the health of the public while also taking steps to improve the efficiency of regulations for the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products.
Misleading and false claims associated with hemp extract products may lead consumers to put off getting important medical care, such as a proper diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care. For that reason, it is important to talk to your doctor about the best way to treat diseases or conditions with existing, approved treatment options.
Unlike drug products approved by the FDA, unapproved cannabis extracts have not been subject to FDA review, and there has been no evaluation regarding whether they are safe and effective to treat a particular disease, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs or foods, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.
The FDA is working to answer questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds. More information can be found in their document “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD”.
“Food” includes all products that are intended for consumption or used as an ingredient in a product intended for consumption. This includes candy/gummies, chewing gum, dietary supplements, and beverages, including alcoholic beverages (e.g. wine, beer, distilled spirits). Medications, like over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs, are not defined as food. Further detail on the definition of “food” in Minnesota can be found in Minnesota Statute and Minnesota Administrative Rule .
Hemp products allowed in food may change as federal or state laws change. Minnesota currently follows federal regulations for the manufacture and sale of hemp products. Currently, three hemp products are designated as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) – they are (1) hulled hemp seeds , (2) hemp seed protein powder , and (3) hemp seed oil . These three products, which are all from the seed of the hemp plant, contain only trace amounts of extracts like THC and CBD and have been evaluated by the FDA. These three products can be sold as food or added as ingredients to foods and sold in Minnesota.
Hemp ingredients that come from hemp plant parts other than the seeds are not allowed as food ingredients. This includes the flower of the hemp plant. These non-seed ingredients are not allowed regardless of whether they are added to the food item by a manufacturer, retailer, or by the consumer. Illegal ingredients may be labeled or named as delta-8 THC, hemp extract, full spectrum CBD oil, PCR extracts, or CBD oil. Hemp products not allowed in food may change as federal or state laws change.
All food additives must be tested for potential harmful effects on human health before they can be used as ingredients in food. This includes the different components of the hemp plant. An FDA evaluation was completed for the seed of the hemp plant, and those ingredients have been identified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredients. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) also consults with FDA for all ingredients used in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages.
Parts of the Cannabis sativa plant are considered drugs and are controlled under the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Controlled Substances Act (CSA) . Nationally, FDA regulations establish the legal basis for the sale or use of food and drug products. Under FDA law, a product or ingredient cannot be both a food and a drug. Minnesota adopts federal law, where other states may have their own laws regarding the sale of cannabis.
The FDA is working to answer questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds. More information can be found in their document “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.”
FDA is responsible for evaluating products to determine if they are safe for human consumption. Since Minnesota adopts federal regulations and associated statements and guidance documents regarding wholesale food production and distribution, the federal regulations apply in Minnesota as well. Minnesota retailers must comply with the Minnesota Food Code, which is also based on federal regulations. Minnesota Administrative Rule “Food Additives” states that food must not contain unapproved food additives, substances, or additives that exceed amounts specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.
If the MDA identifies the addition of illegal hemp extracts to food, our staff will work with the business owner or operator to clarify what is and what is not allowed in food in Minnesota to ensure no adulterated foods are being produced or sold.
· More information about the sale of cannabis extracts in Minnesota can be found in the FAQ document provided by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and in Statute ( SALE OF CERTAIN CANNABINOID PRODUCTS ) .
· More information about MDA’s Industrial Hemp Program can be found on their website’s FAQ page .
· More information about medical marijuana or medical cannabis can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health Medical Cannabis website .