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  • July 31, 2019

FDA pressed to assess risks of marijuana

With health effects largely unknown, attorneys general in 35 states are pressing the Federal Drug Administration to assess the risks and benefits of marijuana products and work with them to develop regulations to cover this exploding industry.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is among state officers urging the FDA to develop a regulatory framework that protects consumers and growers in the face of this fast-growing industry of recreational marijuana and edibles containing cannabidiol (CBD), an oil said to have therapeutic value in treating a variety of medical conditions.

Mr. Raoul and his colleagues are pressing the FDA to research the safety of various cannabinoid products as well as partner with state consumer protection authorities as it considers marketplace guidelines.

“As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to protect Illinois consumers by enforcing our consumer protection laws,” Mr. Raoul said. “I urge the FDA to include state attorneys general in oversight over the emerging market of cannabis-derived products so we can continue to protect consumers and ensure they are not at risk of misleading advertising or exposed to products that could be harmful to their health.”

The American Dental Association has not taken a position on marijuana legalization efforts. It has noted that cannabis smoking is associated with periodontal complications, xerostomia, and leukoplakia as well as increased risk of mouth and neck cancers, though it noted cannabis has  proved useful for some patients fighting glaucoma, cancer and AIDS. 

Mr. Raoul indicated he and the coalition want the FDA to study how cannabis compounds work, in particular, and how they interact with drugs and dietary supplements. They also emphasized that need for an assessment of the risks these products pose to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. 

The Farm Bill, passed by Congress in December 2018, removed cannabis products containing less than .3 percent of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, from the Schedule I list of drugs prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. That opened the door for companies across the country to manufacture and sell varieties of cannabis commonly classified as “hemp.” Hemp contains little THC but large amounts of CBD, a compound that has been touted by some to treat a wide variety of health concerns, even cancer.

The Farm Bill permits states to come up with their own “Comprehensive Regulatory Plans” to regulate the CBD industry within their borders. Those plans will be reviewed by the federal government for approval. In the interim, Mr. Raoul and his colleagues are concerned the CBD industry has expanded dramatically in the last six months without much oversight.

With hemp legalized at the federal level, FDA also is keeping an eye on numerous states, including Illinois, that have moved to legalize full-strength marijuana in their states, even though marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

Today, 33 states have legalized marijuana for specific medical uses, and 10 allow recreational use by adults. Illinois will become the 11th state where recreational marijuana is legal when its new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.