Ever since states like Vermont have passed marijuana legalization, the free market has responded to the increasing demand with countless products. That’s included the use of cannabidiol in several items. Better known as CBD, it’s a non-intoxicating form of cannabis that derives from hemp.
Industry analysts predict that the U.S. hemp-derived CBD market will reach $591 million this year and skyrocket to $22 billion by 2022. Ben & Jerry’s wants to get in on that action, too, and recently announced their desire to begin selling CBD-infused ice cream.
„We are committed to bringing CBD-infused ice cream to your freezer as soon as it’s legalized at the federal level,” the company said in a statement.
But several companies nationwide and some in Vermont, already sell these types of products. Here’s a few:
CBD in coffee, tea
Several shops in downtown Burlington already have CBD options. At Maglianero Cafe and Cosmic Grind, customers can get a shot of CBD in their drinks. CBD derived from Colorado and Vermont grown hemp flowers are used in a tea sold at Dobra Tea.
California company KickBack also sells a cold coffee and tea and a ground coffee infused with the ingredient. They describe their products as providing a „function chill” to allow people to feel relaxed and energized. Such a claim has yet to be verified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
CBD in seltzer
Fruity flavors are present in drinks like Bimble Dram, Recess, and Sprig, all brands of sparkling waters that contain CBD. The companies use 20 to 25 milligrams of the ingredient in their 12-ounce drinks.
There’s also Queen City Hemp, who uses only 5 milligrams. The company that sells CBD-infused seltzer isn’t from Burlington, though. They’re from Cincinnati, that other Queen City).
CBD in burgers
Fast food chain Carl’s Jr. did this on just one day in April (we don’t have to tell which day, do we?). The burger used a „Santa Fe sauce” that was infused with CBD and was sold at a Denver store.
“CBD is one of the hottest culinary trends right now, and what better place to test this new burger than in Denver, a city that has been a trailblazer in the CBD movement,” restaurant spokeswoman Candice Jacobson said.
There’s no indication if the chain will reintroduce the burger, but a Denver food truck reportedly is making burgers and tacos infused with the ingredient.
CBD in ice cream
Ben & Jerry’s wouldn’t be the first. A cafe in North Carolina began selling CBD-infused ice cream last year. The dessert was made from hemp milk.
“We steep the flowers in the ice cream before you churn it, so it extracts the CBD oil,” The Hop Ice Cream Cafe owner Ashley Garrison told Green Rush Daily. „Then we add just a little bit of vanilla.”
Why is this so complicated? Enter the FDA and interstate commerce
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, but a bill signed last year by President Trump removed some restrictions.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC), opening the door for the rush of CBD-infused products, but the FDA has said that it considers CBD-infused food products illegal to sell across state lines because CBD is an active ingredient in some drugs. However, they have not enforced this strongly and different states have taken different approaches.
In Vermont, hemp is legally allowed to be „grown as a crop, produced, possessed, and commercially traded in the state.”
The industry has gone to great lengths to market the health benefits of CBD-products but the FDA hasn’t agreed, even after the Farm Bill’s signing.
„Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” a letter from the department read.
While seltzers and ice creams are still being sold, some companies’ attempts to use the ingredient have been nixed. Last year, Long Trail Brewing unveiled cans of Medicator beer that included Vermont-grown hemp. They were told to cease production by another department: The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The reasoning was due to a rule regulating government approval of “non-standard” beer ingredients. The brewery said it didn’t believe it had to submit a request to the agency because they were only selling the beer on-site and not sending it over state lines.
FDA hearing on CBD held May 31
Questions about such products could get answers soon. The FDA is holding a hearing on the legalization of such products Friday. In response, Ben & Jerry’s has asked those who want their CBD-infused product to submit comments to the FDA.
„We really need the FDA to join in and help us lay a path toward a regulated legal product,” U.S. Hemp Roundtable general counsel Jonathan Miller told NPR.
FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless noted questions about the quantity of the product that would be considered safe for pregnant women and children at the start of hearing.
Researchers, businesses and consumer advocates urged the agency to move quickly on regulating the product as it raises concerns about the accuracy of current product labels.
Nate Chute is a producer with the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at @nchute.