CBD News Roundup: SpaceX to Send Hemp Into Space in 2020

spacex rocket

Here is the CBD news from this week:

  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to conduct studies on hemp cultures in space in 2020.
  • Congress has agreed on funding for the FDA and USDA to research CBD and evaluate policy.
  • Several lawmakers have sent letters to the USDA asking the agency to change their hemp rules.

SpaceX to Send Hemp Into Space in 2020

Hemp is going to space in 2020.

SpaceX, a private aerospace company owned by Elon Musk, will be sending 480 plant cell cultures to the International Space Station on behalf of Front Range Biosciences, an agriculture technology company.

SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder are partnering with Front Range Biosciences on the project.

The purpose is to study the effects of microgravity on the cultures, which include both hemp and coffee cells.

“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” said Jonathan Vaught, co-founder, and CEO of Front Range Biosciences, in a press release. 

“There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications,” said Vaught.

The cultures will be aboard the International Space Station for one month to find out if microgravity causes any genetic mutations.

“Ultimately, the results of the research could help growers and scientists identify new varieties or chemical expressions in the plant. This will also allow scientists to understand better how plants manage the stress of space travel and set the stage for a whole new area of research for the company and the industry,” said Front Range Biosciences.

The companies plan to conduct more studies that they hope will increase the “productivity and viability of terrestrial crops and plants.”

Congress Appropriates Funding to FDA, USDA for CBD Research and Policy Enforcement

Congress has appropriated funds for hemp-derived CBD policy enforcement among its two spending bills, which were signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.

Within the $1.4 trillion spending package, $2 million is distributed between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for CBD research, policy evaluation, market surveillance, and issuance of an enforcement discretion policy.

The market surveillance would entail the FDA performing a study of CBD products, testing if the items match their labels.

As for the enforcement discretion policy, Congress is requesting the FDA to decide how they will enforce their current stance on CBD, which makes it illegal to add the cannabinoid to food and beverages; however, the majority of hemp-derived CBD companies do this.

The primary method of enforcement thus far from the FDA has come in the form of warning letters about health claims.

These letters call out companies explicitly claiming that CBD can cure diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s; however, they have not told companies to cease from creating food and beverage products containing CBD.

Currently, the FDA is creating a regulatory pathway to allow CBD into the food supply.

Still, it may take multiple years unless Congress passes CBD-specific legislation, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“While providing funding for testing is a positive first step, unfortunately, today’s action falls short of what is needed to protect consumers. The future of the U.S. hemp industry and the farmers and producers who provide it are directly tied to smart regulations for CBD, which includes FDA establishing a safe level of consumption so consumers are protected,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., the president and CEO of the Natural Products Association.

Lawmakers Request USDA to Change Hemp Rules

Lawmakers are pushing back on the United States Department of Agriculture’s recently proposed hemp regulations.

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent their letter to US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue requesting that the USDA change a handful of regulations.

Among the changes, the Senators asked the USDA to raise the negligence threshold (the THC level at which farmers are penalized) from 0.5% to 1%.

Hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC in dry weight to be legal.

“It is possible hemp growers could take all the necessary steps and precautions to produce hemp according to the guidelines and still produce hemp plants that exceed the 0.5% THC concentration due to factors out of their control,” said a press release regarding the letter. “The Senators also urged USDA to examine mediation options to deal with growers who accidentally exceed the THC threshold.”

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01) and Jared Golden (D-ME-02) also sent a letter to the USDA.

In their letter, the Maine lawmakers asked the agency “to heed the formal comments and concerns of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF).”

A press release of the letter also noted the elected officials supported the SAFE Banking Act, legislation that would allow banks to serve cannabis-related businesses without fear of federal penalties.

Public comment on the hemp rules is open until December 31, 2019.