S.C. regulators say selling CBD food products is illegal despite their proliferation over the past year

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Sadly, Apis Mercantile CBD honey may be harder to find soon - APIS MERCANTILE FACEBOOK
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  • Sadly, Apis Mercantile CBD honey may be harder to find soon
Last month, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture's consumer protection division released a statement about the legality of hemp and CBD food products sold in the state.

In recent years, federal and state lawmakers have taken tenuous steps toward legalizing hemp- and cannabidiol-derived goods. S.C. even approved a small pilot program for industrial hemp in 2017. Since then, companies selling products containing CBD have been popping up in S.C. right and left. Recently, we referenced at least five local companies in a post about CBD and upcoming hemp festivals.

CBD itself remains legal, but until last month, the SCDA was never "cracking down" on food products containing the extract, according to an initial report by Live 5 News.

On Feb. 20, the SCDA issued a statement saying the state is following FDA guidelines when it comes to CBD food products. From that release:
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) is aware of the growing public interest in hemp and cannabis-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD) addition into human and animal foods in South Carolina.

"The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that under the Federal Food and Cosmetic Act, CBD cannot legally be added to any human or animal food products for public sale" said Derek Underwood, Assistant Commissioner of Consumer Protection. "In essence, this is identical to adding a drug to a food or feed product." FDA has concluded that it is a prohibited act to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food or feeds to which CBD has been added.
When we talked to Underwood on Monday, he reiterated that while CBD itself is legal in South Carolina, CBD in food products is not (it's commonly found in specialty tea, honey, and dog treats). "CBD is completely legal, but when you add it into a food item, it no longer becomes a food item," says Underwood.



"We want to make sure we educate people," says Underwood. "We want to educate before we regulate. We've been telling people this for the past year. We want to make sure that CBD oil is from an approved source and the dosage is legitimate and it's not confused as a food item." So what about those jars of CBD honey? Right now, they're illegal.

Apis Mercantile, a local company that manufactures CBD honey products, sent a press release last week, following the SCDA's release about CBD food products.

Owner John Berdux wrote that he and his business partner have been in contact with the SCDA for the past 14 months, asking for updates on the South Carolina food-hemp policy and for guidance on manufacturing; he notes that Apis received an email from SCDA at the end of last month.

Berdux says, "After 14 months of constant contact, we were informed of the change after the fact, with little time to prepare and with few options for recourse. It is our belief, that in light of the FDA's announcement of public hearings in mid-April, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s policy statement and intended enforcement action is premature as the future of CBD food products remains unclear."

According to CNBC, the FDA will start looking into how it might legalize CBD food products this April. Last month, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency was "deeply focused" on the regulations surrounding CBD food products. (A week ago, Gottlieb announced he was resigning, effective in the beginning of April.)

But until further action is taken, Apis has stopped offering CBD food products in South Carolina. The company will continue to sell their non-food related CBD products like Full Spectrum Tinctures and Full Spectrum Beeswax Salve.
Underwood says that once there are clinical studies to prove that CBD food products are safe — not just "somebody's testimony or someone at a vape shop," as he put it — and the FDA approves research, the state can properly address the safety of CBD food items.

Underwood is not anti-CBD; it was the SCDA that approved the state's hemp farms in the first place. He just wants you to know what you're putting in your body. "It's fine, it's great," says Underwood of CBD. "But you can't put it in a food item. That's something completely different."

What about those upcoming hemp festivals? Well, they're perfectly fine, as long as there aren't any CBD food products for sale.

As for alcohol? Well, that's still a murky area. According to the Department of Revenue, which regulates alcohol in the state, there are not regulations currently in place specifically for CBD. The DOR’s public information officer, Bonnie Swingle, notes that all distilled spirits and beer and wine must be labeled in accordance with the Federal Alcoholic Administration Act.

Stay tuned for updates on CBD food regulations. Until then, Apis Mercantile suggests that you reach out to your elected officials and voice your support for CBD food products.

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