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CSPI Urges FDA to Take Steps to Reduce Risks of Cannabis Use

Statement of CSPI Policy Director Laura MacCleery

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Cookies and brownies labeled "edibles" with a marijuana leaf

Today, CSPI filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to assert a more active role in regulating health and safety with regard to consumer use of cannabis.

Decriminalization and legalization of cannabis is occurring at the state level, producing a legal patchwork with inadequate policies and funding to protect consumers. Cannabinoids and the risks they may pose are poorly understood.

Yet cannabis-derived products, mostly containing cannabidiol (CBD), may be found today in hundreds of supplements, foods, and other products. This exploding marketplace for consumer goods is well out in front of federal law, which (despite its myriad flaws) historically provides the most robust assurance of safety and quality in food and drugs.

Decriminalization addresses a host of problematic aspects of prohibition, including long-standing patterns of racial discrimination in the prosecution of marijuana-related criminal offenses. But current state legalization approaches, combined with lack of clarity over the federal role, fail to provide appropriate levels of consumer protections.

It is critical that FDA assert its authority on behalf of consumers to ensure that products are safe, accurately labeled, and free of adulterants and contaminants, and that consumers are aware of relevant risks. To do so will require that the agency articulate a long-term program to gradually align the state laws that legalize these products with applicable federal health and safety protections, as we propose.

In addition, FDA should take enforcement action on products that pose the greatest public health risks, including:

  • products that make health claims, especially for serious or life-threatening diseases, those with serious side effects, or that pose a hazard to vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women;
  • products that appeal to children and youth;
  • products containing high doses of either CBD or THC, products with higher concentrations than labeled, CBD products not labeled for THC content but that contain THC; and
  • products found to be mislabeled or contaminated.

CSPI’s comments outline a comprehensive, multi-step plan for FDA and Congress to, over time, align state and federal law, better protect children and vulnerable groups, and improve the safety and quality of cannabis products that may be sold.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Richard Adcock (radcock[at]cspinet.org).