Texas Backs Off Cannabis Oil Ban, Seeks ‘Big Picture’ Plan

Photo Credit: National Pain Report

A state health agency has tapped the brakes on its drive to strip food and supplements infused with CBD oil — a non-psychoactive extract of marijuana — from Texas retail store shelves.

But it’s unclear how long the reprieve will last for over-the-counter food products containing CBD, or cannabidiol.

An official with the Texas Department of State Health Services said the agency has slowed the rollout of its previous proposal while it consults with a number of other government entities, including law enforcement, to devise a broader framework for regulation of foods, drugs and cosmetics that are sold at retail and advertise CBD among their ingredients.

“We’re trying to figure out our big picture,” said Lara Anton, a spokeswomen for the health agency. “We are getting more information to try to decide on a more overarching policy.”

The move comes after the health agency received about 1,000 comments regarding its previous plan during an official period for public input that ended last month. The bulk of the input was in opposition to the proposal, which essentially would render CBD-infused foods and supplements off limits to most Texans if it went into effect.

CBD — which doesn’t produce a high — has been gaining popularity nationwide as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, anxiety, seizures and sleep disorders. But it remains illegal under federal law, as does tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the component of the marijuana plant that is psychoactive.

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said he’s pleased that the health agency has decided to seek outside guidance before implementing any new rules regarding retail sales of CBD products in Texas. But Moody — an advocate for increasing the availability of medical marijuana in the state — also reiterated a call for the agency to delay the process altogether until lawmakers have a chance to weigh in during next year’s legislative session.

“There have been concerns that this was a process that was moving too quickly and was really haphazard, so this is certainly a wiser tack to take,” he said. But “I’m typically of the opinion that (state) agencies should look to guidance from the Legislature” regarding regulations.

Anton said she isn’t aware of any discussions at the agency about waiting for the 2019 legislative session before implementing new CBD rules, although she said, “That’s not to say that couldn’t happen.”

The public input received by the health agency during the official comment period indicated “primarily (that) people wanted to be able to continue to buy” CBD-infused products in Texas, she said, but it also highlighted the sheer number of retail products containing the extract that are being sold in the state, including nonfood products such as lotions.

“We weren’t aware of how many different products (containing CBD oil) there were and how widely it was being sold,” Anton said. “After reviewing the comments, we realized that we needed to gather more information about the use of CBD in other types of products before making any decisions on how to enforce existing laws that apply to foods, drugs and cosmetics.”

Under the agency’s previous proposal, any food or food supplement advertising itself in the state as a source of CBD or THC and sold over the counter would have been subject to confiscation if the retailer declined to remove it voluntarily. Foods and supplements promoting only “hemp oil” as an ingredient wouldn’t have been affected by the policy, but any specifically mentioning CBD or THC on its label would have to be removed.

If implemented, the plan would put CBD-infused products out of reach of most Texas consumers.

Some CBD sales are allowed in Texas under the state’s medical cannabis law, called the Compassionate Use Act. But the law is highly restrictive, and only three dispensaries have been licensed under it to sell CBD in Texas, and only patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy and under a doctor’s direction are allowed to buy it.