CBD tea is likely to become a popular option in the broad category of herbal beverages marked by their wellness contributions, soothing effects, and smooth, woody taste. It is often blended with chamomile and has a rooibos-like flavor. Its primary ingredients are claimed, with strong scientific support, to reduce anxiety and ease nausea. There’s just one loose end: is it legal?
CBD stands for “cannabidiol”, a class of compounds derived from the cannabis species. The legal tea is made from hemp, which is part of the cannabis family, as is the marijuana plant. Until the passing of a series of federal legislation beginning in 2014, hemp was treated as if it were pot. Legislative muddle and ignorance led to hemp being classified as a dangerous narcotic and direct marijuana equivalent under the 1970 Controlled Substance Act.
The Farm Bill and Hemp Farming Act of 2018 at last recognized the difference. Hemp is an agricultural product bred for manufacturing and used in ropes, soaps, cardboard, and carpets. It cannot get you high. The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is just one of well over a hundred cannabinoids in cannabis and that makes up the psychoactive component of marijuana. The concentration of THC is generally around 10 percent in weed, but the hemp plant contains just 0.3 percent, too little even to show up on a drug test.
Legalization of hemp removed it from the controlled substance list, but the DEA still opposes medical marijuana and in mid-2018 a Federal Appeals Court upheld its authority to treat CBD as a controlled substance in a case brought by the hemp industry. That makes hemp legal and hemp tea not legal at the federal level.
Canadian law has followed a similar path. The Toronto Globe and Mail provides a thorough coverage of both CDB and legal action that is directly applicable to the US.
It’s almost completely legal at the state level where 10 states have fully legalized cannabis and its byproducts. Hemp is legal in 37 others. Only Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota place restrictions on its processing and distribution. If you walk into any supermarket, you’re almost sure to spot a hemp fiber/protein/powder product in the health supplement section.
You won’t spot a CBD tea, though. Products exist but the distribution pipeline has not yet opened. That’s apparent in the reality test of retailing: Amazon listings. These include CBD teas and coffees. There are no legal disclaimers and the Amazon imprint is an implicit statement of legality. The tea reviews are strongly favorable. But there are fewer than 40 products shown, with none from the major brands. No leading specialty tea seller offers CBD. Though Adagio sells hemp tea filters. A very small number of CBD tea-specific brands are emerging online. Several café chains are marketing it in California.
The CBD mini-industry is thus fragmented, unregulated, and open to quality and certification issues that feed into legal and FDA concerns. CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana plants. The hand of the DEA and state authorities reaches out in the areas of legally licensed producers here. “There’s a lot of confusion as to what is legal, what is cannabis and what is hemp.” A 2017 study of 84 CBD products from 31 online retailers found that the concentration levels did not match the labeled listing in nearly 70 percent and a quarter did not specify the amount. It is hard to know just what you are getting and prices are high.
In December FDA issued a letter stating, “we continue to be concerned at the number of drug claims being made about products not approved by the FDA that claim to contain CBD or other cannabis-derived compounds. Among other things, the FDA requires any cannabis-derived product that is marketed with a claim of therapeutic benefit, or with any other disease claim, to be approved by the FDA for its intended use before it may be introduced into interstate commerce.”
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote, “FDA has authority to issue a regulation allowing the use of a pharmaceutical ingredient in a food or dietary supplement. We are taking new steps to evaluate whether we should pursue such a process,” he said, pledging to hold public hearings “in the near future.”
See FDA guidelines: fda.gov
The current muddle about CBD law and oversights is illustrated by headlines from just the first week of February. “CBD is now legal in all 50 states” contrasts with the news that New York’s health authority has banned edibles from restaurants and bars. Maine and Georgia health officials are likely to do the same. Utah police arrested and charged a truck driver with a felony for transporting a 7,000 load of hemp and Ohio is “embargoing” CBD for retailers under medical marijuana rules, without distinguishing between hemp and cannabis. In the end, hemp will be legal, safe, sold and everywhere but meanwhile, who knows what, where, why and when?
It seems most likely that CBD teas will be targeted to the health food stores that already sell CBD oils and fiber supplements, especially given the boost to the product concept by the accumulation of evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana and the FDA approving the first cannabis medication, for epilepsy treatment.
Three general recommendations seem appropriate for retailers who are considering stocking CBD tea:
- Check your state’s regulations for CDB and derived products (via Google) to validate sellers’ legal requirements.
- Make sure the CBD is from hemp and only hemp and that there is reliable labeling of ingredients. Do not buy “cannabis tea” or “marijuana-infused tea.”
- Use Amazon, not necessarily to make a purchase but to get a sense from customer reviews of what to look for in CBD teas. You won’t find many but a few suppliers are beginning to stand out in terms of product, blending, and information.
One loose end concerning CBD is it “tea” or “medicine”? One of the many innovations to join bubble tea, cheese tea, and turmeric herbal teas or, instead, a delivery base for CBD oil that joins medical marijuana as a treatment or palliative? How will tea lovers view it and how much does it interest them?
World Tea News is interested to hear and share its audiences’ views.