Hemp in California: Clock ticking to get bills to governor’s desk

California hemp, Hemp in California: Clock ticking to get bills to governor’s desk

(Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series on the complex hemp market in California. To read the previous installment, click here.)

California has lagged behind other states in passing hemp policy. That could change in the next month.

Two long-debated hemp and CBD proposals are awaiting California lawmakers when they return from their summer recess on Monday. At stake is the future of the hemp industry in the nation’s largest agricultural state.

The state legislature has until mid-September to act on hemp bills and if passed, send them to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

CBD in food and drinks

One of the proposals would permit hemp-derived CBD in foods, beverages and cosmetics. The bill cleared the Senate Health Committee in June but faces one more committee test before before being sent to the full Senate.

The measure says that “a food, beverage or cosmetic is not adulterated by the inclusion of industrial hemp,” including extracts such as CBD. It would reverse a 2018 stipulation from the California Department of Public Health that said hemp-derived CBD can’t be added to foods.

The stipulation hasn’t stopped some businesses from doing it anyway.

Passing the law would put California alongside other states that have flouted U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules by allowing hemp-derived CBD in food.

“None of the states can supersede the FDA directly, but they can define regulations for what can be sold within the states,” said Brian Baum, president and CEO of Colorado-based CBD company Cannovia.

The CBD bill has already passed the full Assembly. Insiders expect the Senate and Newsom will approve it, too, putting the change into effect immediately.

Most of the California marijuana industry is on board with the measure, according to Amy Jenkins, lead lobbyist for the California Cannabis Industry Association.

“My cannabis retailers are saying they want to sell these products,” Jenkins said. “My manufacturers are saying they want to use CBD oil as an ingredient or launch CBD brands.”

“So, this is a critically important issue for the vast majority of the industry.”

But some in the cannabis industry worry that the CBD bill isn’t as straightforward as it appears.

Sean Donahoe, a cannabis consultant based in Oakland, told Hemp Industry Daily that hemp-derived CBD products are “perhaps less clean and less purified” than CBD products derived from regulated marijuana.

Clarifying the state’s hemp plan

Another bill awaiting action by California lawmakers would:

  • Bring California’s hemp regulation and cultivation laws into compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Require the California Department of Food and Agriculture to submit a hemp regulation plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture before January 31, 2020.

The cultivation measure awaits action in the state Assembly.

Donahoe said that because the cultivation bill has been amended, California hemp producers should review it carefully before it hits the governor’s desk.

“The core issue (that) we should make our state’s hemp program conform to the federal standards – that’s a simple statement. However, some of the steps being taken go above and beyond,” he told Hemp Industry Daily.

For example, he pointed to one amendment requiring hemp research be done by either the University of California or the California State University system, eliminating private hemp research.

“Other states are submitting plans to the USDA that aren’t as onerous,” Donahoe said.

“I don’t think California needs to be as bureaucratic as it’s presently being with hemp.”

Laura Drotleff can be reached at laurad@staging-hempindustrydaily.kinsta.cloud