Beyond the Crackdown: New York Classifies Hemp-CBD as a Dietary Supplement

In this article:

How New York is Regulating CBD

Last week, New York City’s Department of Health (“DOH”) quarantined a number of edible products that contained hemp-derived CBD (“Hemp-CBD”) and announced that Hemp-CBD would not be allowed in food products in the City. Eater first broke the story, but the crackdown made national news with the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesNBC, and Fox all publishing stories on the event. It is unsurprising that the DOH action drew such coverage. CBD is massively popular, New York City is the largest city in the United States, and the story is compelling because the DOH actually sent out agents to quarantine products, rather than simply issuing a statement. It seems to be this last point that garnered national attention based on the relative lack of coverage of a very similar story a few months ago.

On December 18, 2018, shortly before the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (the “Department”) issued a series of frequently asked questions (“FAQs“) and a CBD Processor Template Agreement (“CBD Agreement“) that were both focused on Hemp-CBD. Unlike the DOH, the Department did not take any enforcement action. Coverage of the FAQs and the CBD Agreement was sparse. Now that New York City is taking action, it’s time to dig into the state’s position on Hemp-CBD.

new york cbd
Home of “dietary supplement” CBD.

The Department oversees New York’s industrial hemp program, which was promulgated under the 2014 Farm Bill. Rather than issuing licenses or permits, the Department enters into research agreements with individuals and companies who wish to process hemp into commercial products. The Department uses a number of template agreements available online. The CBD Agreement applies to processors who wish to create Hemp-CBD products intended for human consumption.

FAQs and the CBD Agreement

The FAQs and the CBD Agreement make it clear that the Department is intending to treat Hemp-CBD as a dietary supplement. The FAQs state that an individual cannot “sell any item for human consumption that has CBD as an ingredient unless” the two following standards are met:

  1.  The item is produced under the rigorous dietary-supplement standards described in the CBD Agreement; and
  2. The item is properly labeled and packaged for sale pursuant to FDA regulations for dietary supplements.

The FAQs elaborate on its dietary supplement standard:

What is the difference between a dietary supplement and a food product?

No product for human consumption that has CBD added to it can be labeled and marketed as a food. All extracted CBD and CBD products must be manufactured pursuant to FDA dietary supplement standards and must be labeled and marketed as a dietary supplement[.]

What are “dietary-supplement standards” or “dietary supplement GMP”?

The FDA sets three levels of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs): one GMP standard for foods, a more rigorous GMP standard for dietary supplements, and an extremely rigorous GMP for pharmaceuticals. Products listing CBD as an ingredient must be manufactured pursuant to the dietary-supplement standards. The dietary supplement GMPs are federal, and are described here: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?cfrpart=111

This section is titled “Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements.” Any product for human consumption that lists CBD as an ingredient must be manufactured pursuant to these dietary-supplement standards.

Dietary Supplement Classification

This dietary supplement classification applies to any “product that is a combination of ready-to-eat food with additional CBD infusions or CBD extracts, such as CBD chocolate syrup or CBD soda or CBD-infused frosting drizzled cookies.” The FAQs also  apply to CBD-Hemp from other states: “products made from industrial hemp that are sold in NYS must meet NYS standards, regardless of where the product is processed or manufactured.”

It should be noted that the Department acknowledges that its jurisdiction over Hemp-CBD is limited. For example, the Department does not require businesses to apply to the Department to add pre-manufactured Hemp-CBD to another product such as a topical or to develop products using CBD is sourced from another state. There is also no requirement to obtain any authorization from the Department to sell Hemp-CBD products. However, if the product is sold anywhere in New York State, it must comply with dietary supplement standards.

You can agree or disagree with the New York City DOH’s decision to start quarantining CBD in food, however, it does seem to be consistent with the Department’s guidance. The Department is a state agency and the DOH is a city agency so DOH’s decision may be a show of deference to the Department.

New York’s Position on Hemp-CBD

The CBD Agreement is a research contract between Hemp-CBD processors, referred to as “Research Partners” in the Agreement, and the Department. Its provisions would not bind other actors including Hemp-CBD sellers or Hemp-CBD processors legally operating in other states. However, the CBD Agreement does shed light on what the Department is going to require for Hemp-CBD.

Research Partners cannot process or sell Hemp-CBD as food. A Research Partner must also obtain written approval from the Department if it intends to sell or distribute Hemp-CBD dietary supplements in a form other than “pill, capsule, caplet, tablet, tinctures, droplets or elixir, chewable, or isolate form[.]”

The CBD Agreement expands on how Research Partners, or CBD processors in other states hoping to sell products in New York, can comply with FDA’s dietary supplement standards:

For the purposes of this Research Agreement, products and production methods used shall comply with FDA law, regulation and guidance concerning dietary supplements with respect to the standards for: personnel, facilities, production, process control systems, quality control measures, record retention, packaging, holding and distribution, supply chain management, recalls, returns, complaints and training associated with dietary supplements.

The dietary supplement standards are in addition to THC testing for CBD products. Hemp-CBD intended to be consumed or absorbed into the human body must also be tested under New York’s medical marijuana program for “cannabinoid profile, solvents, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria and molds.”

CBD Product Requirements

The CBD requirements require that Research Partners must also provide a serving size and applicable warning on the label. According to the CBD Agreement, CBD products shall also include the following information:

  • The list of all pharmacological active ingredients, including and not limited to THC, CBD, and other cannabinoid content over .05%;
  • The CBD product must set forth the servings per bottle/package, the amount of CBD in milligrams per serving and the total CBD content, in milligrams per package, and the maximum recommended daily amount;
  • The list of all solvents (pesticides) used in the cultivation/extraction process;
  • The manufacture date and source;
  • The batch number;
  • The product expiration date, and
  • The following warning, along with an appropriate warning to consult with a physician concerning the product use:

“This product is neither reviewed nor approved by the State of New York and has not been analyzed by the FDA. There is limited information on the effects of using this product. Keep out of reach of children.”

Reporting, Approved Extraction Methods, and Sourcing Hemp

The CBD agreement also covers reporting, approved extraction methods, and sourcing hemp.  According to the CBD Agreement, the Department may eventually require registration from entities selling Hemp-CBD.

Recently, I wrote about the FDA’s stated position is that Hemp-CBD is not a dietary supplement. As such, the Department’s position is contrary to the FDA’s. The following language in the CBD Agreement requires Research Partners to acknowledge the FDA’s position:

The Research Partner represents that it has sought whatever legal or other advice it believes to be appropriate and is not relying upon the Department’s approval of its research proposal or any other statement or conduct by the Department in connection with the Research Partner’s evaluation of any legal or other risk to which the Research Partner may be exposed in undertaking the project, including, without limitation, the FDA’s position with respect to CBD and dietary supplements.

For CBD Processors in New York, the CBD Agreement must be carefully observed. For CBD Processors operating in other states who wish to sell products in New York, the Department’s position makes things a little more complicated. For example, the FDA has different standards for cosmetic products. CBD Processors may want to argue that they are selling a CBD cosmetic, not a dietary supplement. However, if that CBD cosmetic is sold in New York, it must be labeled as a dietary supplement. This may mean that the CBD cosmetic distributor may need to avoid New York or adopt labeling and manufacturing requirements as if the product was a dietary supplement.

Though it may be hard to comply with the Department’s regulations, the FAQs and CBD Agreement at least provide guidance. If you want to sell Hemp-CBD in New York, it must be sold as a dietary supplement, at least for now.