Local News

Got hemp? New regulations coming for CBD oil products

Posted March 27, 2019 6:46 a.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2019 5:14 p.m. EDT

— In North Carolina, cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, is booming. Now, a new federal farm bill is bringing tighter regulations to the popular substance.

CBD oil comes from hemp plants and is already popular in many products made in North Carolina. Hemp "flowers," which come from hemp plants, are a cousin of marijuana but without the psychoactive effects.

For Garrett Perdue, the CEO of Root Bioscience, hemp flowers are the core of his company's future.

"We happen to pull materials, compounds and molecules out of the flower and turn them into health and wellness products," Perdue said. The key ingredient in those products is CBD oil that is extracted and refined in laboratories.

Perdue says his products come in many different formulations, like CBD in drops, which are used under the tongue. Another formula, CBD in lip balm, quickly enters the blood stream. Research supports its benefits for treating epilepsy, but its other claimed benefits need more scientific support.

And the products aren't just for humans.

"The most common application we see for pets is separation anxiety," Perdue said.

CBD is legal -- but not in foods and not when advertised with specific claims.

"Anecdotally, we know that people use our products primarily as sleep enhancers, for anxiety issues and also for general mood balances," Perdue said.

The 2018 farm bill established tighter controls -- like limiting THC content, the psychoactive element, to under 0.3 percent. The state will also soon require licenses and tighter monitoring.

Perdue said he welcomes the new standards.

"The most recent farm bill was very helpful in giving clarity to what to date has been a very unregulated industry," Perdue said.

On March 20, lawmakers rolled out the annual Farm Act, and 10 pages of the 16-page proposal are dedicated to setting up the necessary infrastructure to capitalize on the federal government's loosening of restrictions on hemp production.

"Hemp production can be a new boom industry for North Carolina farmers and at a time when we really need it," bill sponsor Sen. Brent Jackson said during a news conference. "We need to act now to become a national leader."

Growing hemp is an economic benefit for North Carolina farmers. According to state agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler, a pilot program for producing industrial hemp has grown in two years from 222 acres to 8,000 acres.

Troxler said the state now has 634 licensed farmers growing hemp on about 8,000 acres and 3.4 million square feet of greenhouse space. There are also 413 licensed processors statewide, up almost tenfold from a year ago.

"The task becomes, how do we do this in a way that puts North Carolina at the forefront of this emerging industry," Troxler said.

Perdue said he gets 100 percent of his plants from North Carolina farmers who have also discovered hemp's real benefits. "The returns on an acre of hemp currently far surpass anything you see with comparable crops," Perdue said.