This article has been updated.
Bars are not allowed to mix drinks with CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, according to the St. Mary’s County’s liquor board administrator.
“I have gotten multiple phone calls about CBD products,” Tamara Hildebrand, the board’s administrator, said at last Thursday’s meeting.
The alcohol board received a report from White Glove Drug and Alcohol Testing, a private drug testing company, which “stated that the CBD products are not regulated by the FDA” for consumption, Hildebrand said, and “because of that, it is not allowed to be an additive in a food product, so cocktails are off the table as far as CBD use goes at this point in time, via the health department.”
CBD, or cannibidiol, is a part of the marijuana plant that has no psychoactive effects, according to the White Glove notice. The substance is legal to produce as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and is not marketed as a dietary supplement or food product.
Although FDA regulations prevent CBD marketers from making health claims without FDA approval, suppliers still offer products for a wide range of ailments.
“It can help with Crohn’s disease, anxiety and epilepsy,” David Pool, an employee at Neighborhood CBD Store in Leonardtown, said. The store, which opened in June of this year, sells CBD gummies, vape products and topicals as well as hemp oil tinctures.
A release from the FDA from April of this year states that CBD cannot be marketed as a food additive or dietary supplement because “CBD was the subject of substantial clinical investigations into its potential medical uses” and because “CBD is the active ingredient in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved prescription drug product to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.”
The FDA statute “prohibits the introduction into interstate commerce of any food to which the substance has been added unless FDA, in the agency’s discretion, has issued a regulation approving the use of the substance in the food,” according to a May release from the FDA.
“As far as putting it in [food and beverages], it’s definitely a no-no. The FDA is sending out letters, warning them that the product has not been tested, it’s not regulated,” St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Stephen Meyers, the alcohol board’s enforcement coordinator and acting inspector, said at the meeting. “As far as the CBD stores, as long as it’s a distributor, a retailer, they can sell it,” as long as they are sold by a vendor with a state-authorized peddler’s license.
In her office on Monday, Hildebrand said that health code stipulates that additives to food and beverages must be approved before restaurants and bars can add them to the menu.
“The concern is that because it’s not regulated, you don’t know what’s in it,” Hildebrand said.
The White Glove notice says that although CBD vendors and distributors claim that the substance is safe and legal, “currently there is no regulation, no uniform testing standard, no grading, no quality control, and no conformity among CBD products being sold without FDA approval.”
An investigation by the Associated Press that was released Monday found that some vaporizer pods sold in Maryland that were marketed as natural, hemp-derived CBD products contained only a trace amount of CBD, and some were “spiked” with a synthetic marijuana compound that “health authorities blame for poisoning people in the U.S. and New Zealand.”
Hildebrand said that the alcoholic beverage board and the county health department are currently attempting to educate licensees on the legal status of CBD in food and beverage products.
At the meeting, Hildebrand said that she had gotten “information from people outside the county … that say, ‘Oh yeah, I hear they’re [adding CBD to cocktails] down in St. Mary’s.’”
“People just don’t know, they say that CBD’s legal and they think it’s OK, not knowing, so I just want to inform them that they can’t do this, at least in cocktails,” Hildebrand said.
She clarified that the board is “not here to violate anyone” unless a restaurant or bar sells the product knowing that it is against health code, in which case the owners could have to speak before the board.
Mark Morris, the deputy director of environmental health and safety at the county health department, said in a statement that "food items that have been infused with CBD should be considered adulterated and not approved to be used, sold, or served."
"If SMCHD is notified that an establishment is manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, or receiving in commerce any food that is adulterated... an investigation would take place and necessary corrective measures would be issued," Morris said.
Parts of the cannabis plant that don't contain cannabinoids, including hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil are recognized as safe and are allowed as a food product, according to a statement from the Maryland Department of Health.
Also at last Thursday’s meeting, the Maryland Community Alcohol Coalition presented a “social host” ordinance proposal that will be presented to the county commissioners this month, which would allow the local government to issue civil citations to homeowners when underage drinking occurs on their property.
The legislation would affect both parents and landlords, according to the CAC.
“What the social host ordinance is doing is taking an existing law, which is criminal in nature, and we’re giving it an option to be civil, which would then just be a citation, a fine very similar to a traffic ticket,” CAC chair Christopher Shea said at the meeting.
Shea said that the criminal statute is not often prosecuted because police have to develop a burden of proof of responsibility. “If law enforcement shows up at one of these parties, the burden of proof must be beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Shea said.
The alcohol board did not move to support the proposal.
“I want them to come back with something that’s more firm,” board member David Willenborg said.
The CAC had presented a loose proposal as they are awaiting policy drafting by the commissioners. The commissioners reviewed legislative proposals on Tuesday, and will vote on the legislation on Sept. 24.