The booming CBD industry is eagerly waiting to see if U.S. health regulators change course and start allowing cannabinoid treatments in food and dietary supplements.
Many are hoping the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) will condone over-the-counter CBD products while setting production and purity standards to eliminate inferior CBD products from the market.
Carmona served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2008 under former President George W. Bush.
Hemp Industry Daily caught up with Carmona to seek his opinions on, among other things, the U.S. government’s approach to the CBD trend and where he sees regulations headed.
What do you make of the current FDA approach to CBD?
The FDA is struggling to put this into perspective now.
When you look at the issue of supplements, which are largely unregulated, CBD is kind of falling into that.
People are making medicinal claims – that it’ll stop disease, that it will cure cancer, that it will help you with impotence. I’ve seen all of these things.
The FDA recognizes now it needs to get a handle on this and be able to protect the public and provide some guidance to those who are producing these products.
What should that FDA regulation look like?
From seed to feed, we have to make sure that the products being produced are not contaminated with anything, (that) they are pure.
And that there is a standardized manufacturing process the public can be sure of, whatever they get.
After the process (is regulated), we have to say, “Well, what are you producing this for?”
I think the FDA’s particularly interested that people are not making untoward claims that confuse the public for all sorts of diseases or prevention and that they’re honest with the public.
Honest about what?
We need to do more research. There is a potential for therapeutic value for these products. But right now, it’s really the Wild West. There’s a lot of anecdotal information but very little scientific information.
So, we need action, and the industry needs to … participate in the necessary research to be able to define the space that CBD works in.
How long do you think it will take to get that needed research, given your deep background in public health policy?
It will take years to be able to define, and I think over the years as we find out what CBD actually is, is good for and where it is not an appropriate treatment or appropriate prevention strategy.
But there’s very little true science there now. There’s a frenzy to get to market all over this country and globally.
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And, yet, we have very little information – not only (about) how the CBD is going to work but also what are the untoward effects if you use this chronically, for instance.
So, what does this mean for CBD producers already in the market?
We have to be honest with the public. And let them know that, at this point, this is the information we have.
Transparency is the most important thing. We have to let the public know that the research is ongoing.
When Kadenwood announced your appointment, CEO Erick Dickens said you would help “shift the perception of CBD.” What did he mean by that, and how do you plan to do that?
They wanted to engage somebody who was a public health expert, who had credibility in the United States and globally.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty around the use of these products. More research has to be done.
Our regulatory agencies needed to be involved to come up with reasonable regulations to protect the public and define the space.
And I think all of those things add to the integrity of the company and building a reputable brand.
Now that you’re outside government and advising a CBD company, what do you want federal regulators to do?
I’m hoping that our elected officials will engage the experts in the field who do the research, understand the biology, the chemistry, biochemistry and the genetics and how this is all going to come together.
So, I’m just hoping that with my presence and others who have some expertise and credibility, we can shape this space appropriately to the benefit of the public and ensure that only the highest-quality products come forward.
And that we know how they will benefit the public and not cause harm.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected]