The Food and Drug Administration has initiated its first public hearing to legalize CBD in food and drink by May 31 at headquarters outside Washington, DC
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that promises to relax in the body without changing the mind as THC. While the federal government legalized hemp-derived CBD, a close cousin of marijuana, the FDA's rules still prohibit businesses and restaurants from adding it to food or drink.
To invest more in healthcare innovation, click here to join CNBC at our Healthy Returns Summit in New York City on May 21st.
Lawmakers grilled outgoing FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Capitol Hill last month and demanded a FDA figure to change this. Gottlieb told them that he heard the congress "high and clear" and worked on a solution. The FDA has hit the issue privately and will now make its efforts public only at the meeting.
Gottlieb said the working group is planning to share its results as soon as this summer.
"This is a complicated subject and we expect it to take some time to solve fully," he said. "Nevertheless, we are deeply focused on this issue and have committed ourselves to continuing to involve relevant stakeholders as we consider potential paths forward."
Many start-ups have nevertheless introduced CBD-infused seltzers, cookies and latters in the hope that the FDA will change its rules. But the regulatory uncertainty has kept major consumer brands and retailers on the sidelines for now, though demand is flourishing.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday issued warning letters to three companies – Advanced Spine and Pain's Relievus, Nutra Pure and PotNetwork Holdings – allegedly claiming unproven claims for their CBD products, such as helping to treat cancer and Alzheimer's disease. None of the companies responded promptly to CNBC's comments request.
"The FDA remains concerned about the prevalence of actual medical claims about products claiming to contain CBD that is not approved by the FDA, such as products and companies that receive warning letters today," Gottlieb said.
It is illegal to use an ingredient in food or drink that is under clinical research or is the active ingredient in a prescription drug that the CBD is. The FDA should find out that CBD could exist both as a drug product and a food product.
Gottlieb has suggested that high concentrations can be regulated as a drug that has stricter supervision, while lower concentrations can be categorized as food products that come with a lighter through process. However, Gottlieb has repeatedly warned that the average rule takes two to three years for the FDA to draft and complete, and the FDA may ultimately recommend Congress to settle it legally.
Earlier, Gottlieb had said that the meeting would be in April. His last day is Friday.