It doesn’t take more than a few steps down Newbury Street to find a CBD store. The substance is so common that it’s easier to find in the Boston area than any kind of retail marijuana store. Much easier.
But unlike marijuana stores, retailers selling hemp-derived CBD have been operating in a legal gray area, not regulated by the state but largely ignored by most local law enforcement agencies or health boards. After state regulators declared hemp-derived CBD products more-or-less illegal this month, Massachusetts’ hemp farmers are looking for some clarity.
“It feels like they’re trying to stop an industry that was literally just about to take off the ground,” said Laura Beohner, cofounder of The Healing Rose, a CBD company based in Newburyport. “To hurt hemp farmers like this, it’s so upsetting.”
Beohner was one of nearly three dozen people who spoke outside the State House Monday at a rally organized by a new coalition of hemp farmers, manufacturers, and advocates called the MASS Hemp Coalition.
The rally was sparked by the new state policy prohibiting the sale of hemp-derived CBD in foods and hemp-derived CBD products that make “therapeutic/medicinal claims.”
The majority of CBD products on the market, even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, are derived from hemp, a plant similar to marijuana but grown with only minimal levels of THC, the mind-altering compound found in cannabis. Hemp was legalized federally last year and is widely sold, although the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve food or dietary uses for CBD. CBD products that are derived from marijuana, some of which also include a higher level of THC than is allowed in hemp, are overseen by the state Cannabis Control Commission.
Allowing for marijuana-derived CBD while banning hemp-derived CBD is poor public policy, said Jim Borghesani, a former spokesman for the 2016 campaign for legalization.
“You can’t have this absurd dichotomy in the state where you can have marijuana or cannabis consumables, but you can’t have hemp consumables,” he said. For Massachusetts farmers who already have state licenses to grow hemp, the ban on CBD products is affecting their livelihood.
“Less than two months ago, I applied for my processing and manufacturing license, and enumerated that I’d be making edibles, tinctures, infused foods, and I was given a license,” said Julia Agron, a hemp farmer and MASS Hemp Coalition organizer. “For us, if we can’t sell our artisanal product at artisanal prices, we can’t farm.”