Four Colorado companies are among the first 13 nationwide to receive seals from the U.S. Hemp Authority certifying that they meet expected federal quality standards in the production of the recently legalized plant.
The production and sale of marijuana’s nonintoxicating cousin was legalized when President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill in December, but the Federal Drug Administration, which regulates many of the products hemp is used to produce, has yet to authorize its utilization in any food or cosmetics.
While hemp can be used to make everything from clothing to building material, much of it is used to produce cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound that has both proven and unproven medical uses. It can be taken orally or applied to the skin, and the FDA will likely regulate it as a dietary supplement or drug.
“As the hemp industry is in its very early stages there is a lot of skepticism about the products and where they come from,” Balanced Health Botanicals Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Andy Papilion told Denver Business Journal in an email. “Through certifications such as the U.S. Hemp Authority seal, we are able to show the industry that we are a brand to be trusted and that our products are manufactured and sourced in a safe manner.”
Balanced Health Botanicals owns CBDistillery, a 76-employee, multimillion-dollar Denver company that sells its CBD gelcaps, tinctures and topicals both online and from more than 1,200 retail stores in 17 nations.
Louisville-based Bluebird Botanicals and HD Distribution (HEMP DEPOT), along with Boulder CBD behemoth Charlotte’s Web, were the other three Colorado companies to receive the certification. Colorado had the most certified companies; California and Kentucky are both home to three, while one company each was recognized in Florida, Nevada and Washington.
“Certification is enormously beneficial for the industry,” Bluebird Botanicals Quality Assurance Manager Amanda Bowman told DBJ in an email. “… U.S. Hemp Authority took the initiative and thoughtfully defined essential quality guidelines available for all. Until now, industry best practices have been inexplicit. Hemp companies were forced to navigate standards from similar industries and basically ‘guess’ the best practices for their operations. The USHA provides the best industry-specific standard for the growers and processors of hemp.”
The aim of the certification is to get ahead of the curve. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday his agency will begin hearings on the use of CBD in food in April, according to a recent CNBC report, meaning these companies are all still operating in what is essentially a legal gray area. The product they’re selling has been produced legally according to the federal government, while the product itself is often legal in most states but not federally.
“Safety and quality have to come first, and that’s why we launched this certification,” U.S. Hemp Authority President Marielle Weintraub told DBJ. It’s an easy way for consumers, regulators and law enforcement to know they can trust that products adhere to strict standards, and I’m so proud of the industry pioneers who took the first step today.”
The Hemp Authority was created in 2018 as part of an effort to help guide hemp growers and manufacturers along a path to legitimacy. The standards are modeled on FDA regulation in the dietary supplement space, according to an agency spokesperson. It aims to let regulators, consumers and law enforcement feel confident in product safety and transparency. Its Guidance Procedures for Growers and Processors is a 46-page document that dictates standards in everything from storage to labeling, employee training and equipment.
“Charlotte’s Web applauds the U.S. Hemp Authority for helping consumers make easy, educated decisions by upholding the highest best practice standards for hemp-based CBD processors and growers through their seal,” Charlotte’s Web Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board Joel Stanley told DBJ in an email. “We’re honored to announce that Charlotte’s Web products will carry the Hemp Authority seal, celebrating our dedication to quality and transparency. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, more hemp will be planted nationwide, and more hemp-based CBD products will be hitting the shelves. For consumers, the Hemp Authority seal represents trusted options from third party audited companies so they can confidently make purchasing decisions for their health and the health of their loved ones and pets.”