Georgia became the 42nd state with a hemp program in May 2019 when Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 213 into law.
This bill allows hemp crops, which can be used to treat a multitude of health conditions and is permitted for use in cosmetics and topical creams, to be grown and distributed in the state.
This bill comes less than six months after the farm bill, which is a federal bill declassifying hemp as a controlled substance and reclassifying it as an agricultural product instead, and many Georgians have been left confused by what these two legislations mean for the way they can use CBD in their state.
Some people are adamant that these laws allow them to legally use CBD as they pleased, but state officials argue that this isn’t the case.
They says that the federal rules are clear, and as CBD hasn’t been cleared as safe or effective except in the case of medication for certain conditions, it cannot be used in food or beverages.
This information comes too late for many Georgian business owners in the hospitality industry, who had already used their own interpretations of the laws to create unique CBD food and beverages.
Scotty Innis is one of these people. As well as being the owner of Chef Scotley Innis Culinary Services, he is also a cannabis advocate, and used the change in law to host a five course CBD pop-up dinner in Atlanta in March.
He reports the evening being such a success that he had planned to host another CBD dinner in June, but the new bill has left him hesitant to do so. If he does go ahead with it, he’s said he will need to be discrete until the laws surrounding this are cleared up.
In regards to said legislation, Scott Innis says, “[…] that puts on hold on a lot of businesses that took time to do studies and examine it. Now they have to put their business on hold because the government doesn’t know how to regulate it.”.
Less than a month ago, just before the new bill was signed, Georgian restaurant Bocado unveiled a new cocktail menu that mixed CBD oil into pisco sour and an aperitif with amaro and vermouth.
Just weeks later, Brian Lewis, the owner of Bocado, said that CBD was being removed from the Westside restaurant’s beverage menu immediately.
“We’re going to follow the law.” He explained. “If we need to put a pause on it, we will.”
Though Brian Lewis may have been quick to react to the change in legislation and willing to make changes where necessary at a moments notice, many are frustrated.
Jonathon Miller of U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an advocacy organization for the hemp industry, disagrees with Georgia’s warning that it’s unlawful as a good additive until regulations are improved.
Also an attorney, Miller says, “I’m pretty disappointed. We spent a lot of time and energy getting the law changed in Georgia and then to have this happen? I don’t think it’s legally accurate.”
Regardless of opinions from Georgian’s, state officials say they could begin enforcing violations if they are notified of them occurring.
With this being said, the government are yet to receive any complaints, and no regulatory actions have been taken according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Should this change, the state is within its rights to issue cease and desist orders, levy fines and even revoke manufactured food licenses from those who choose to ignore warnings and continue selling CBD food products.
Terrell Davis, a spokesman for the state Agriculture Department, wants to make it clear that they aren’t pointing fingers at anyone.
“We’re all walking through this process one step at a time.”
The fallout from the new bill in Georgia goes to show that the FDA is still playing catch-up when it comes to its federal legislation of hemp.
In better news, the agency has announced that it will be holding its first public hearing in Maryland on May 31 to figure out how to regulate the use of CBD in products, including food and beverages.
This process isn’t a short one, and could take anywhere up to a year to complete, but it should hopefully leave Georgian’s and lawmakers in other states with a better idea of what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to CBD oil being used across different industries.
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