KAILUA-KONA — Cannabidiol has never been permitted for sale in any form in Hawaii, including as a food additive.
Nevertheless, prominently labeled CBD products in food items, beverages, as dietary supplements and in other forms have littered shelves of national chains, groceries, gas stations, health food stores and grassroots entrepreneurs across the islands for a variety of uses.
On Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) issued a statewide release outlining the status of CBD usage, which followed a West Hawaii Today story on the issue published in early April.
Cannabis-derived products including products containing CBD sold without a prescription have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not considered safe for use, the release states.
The primary concern, the release continued, is many CBD products are untested. As a derivative of cannabis — still classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 narcotic — regulation, product testing and general studies of cannabis-derived substances like CBD, as well as products that contain them, have remained limited in the U.S. due to fears of running afoul of federal law.
DOH also contended in its release that products containing CBD could pose potential health risks and are sometimes mislabled with unproven health benefits. DOH is currently reviewing its regulatory policies and procedures for the distribution and sale of these products in Hawaii, the release read.
FDA rules render interstate sale and distribution of cannabis-derived products illegal. The FDA is actively working on their policies and guidance to states on regulatory actions for these products, and warning letters have been sent to companies that have targeted vulnerable populations with false advertising, DOH said.
Falling in step with the FDA, DOH is notifying businesses in Hawaii of the illegal status of these products and providing a warning that regulatory actions and penalties may follow for those who knowingly manufacture, distribute or sell such products in in the state, the release continued.
“The Department of Health intends to regulate all cannabis-derived products in a manner consistent with the approach of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said Bruce Anderson, DOH director. “The FDA and all states are struggling with developing regulatory requirements for this fast-emerging industry. As we work on our procedures and await national guidance, the department will monitor and investigate reports of any adverse health effects related to CBD products in Hawaii and pull products as necessary.”
In addition to the state’s concern for cannabis-derived products including those containing CBD, state statutes also prohibit businesses from adding CBD to food, beverages and cosmetics. Any establishment that fails to comply with this directive may be subject to the loss of their state food establishment permit and/or closure of their business by health inspectors, the release warned.
The release said DOH inspectors will continue to respond to concerns regarding permitted food establishments and require them to cease selling prepared products containing CBD as it is not approved by FDA as an allowable food ingredient. Adding CBD to food or beverages is considered adulteration, a violation of the food safety code. CBD products sold without a prescription and outside of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries may be pulled from sale by health inspectors at any time due to public concerns or reported adverse health effects.
Anderson told West Hawaii Today in early April that departmental action to the effect as outlined in the above paragraph was only taking place on a case-by-case basis following a complaint being lodged with DOH.
CBD will still be available for people with medical marijuana cards through licensed dispensaries across the state.
For additional information on state and federal requirements for products containing CBD and answers to basic questions go to https://health.hawaii.gov/food-drug/.
Retailers selling products containing CBD, as well as members of the public with general inquiries, may contact DOH’s Food and Drug Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Permitted food establishments may contact DOH’s Sanitation Branch using information posted at http://health.hawaii.gov/san/contact-us/.
Farmers or others in the agricultural industry may contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program at email@example.com.
The FDA provides updates on the federal regulation of CBD products and answers to frequently asked questions at https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm421168.htm.