All CBD-infused food and drink sold in Maine must now be made with locally grown hemp.

A state law that went into effect Aug. 1 was created to give Maine a workaround to allow CBD foods to continue to be sold despite a federal ban. The law allows for the manufacture and sale of hemp-based CBD so long as the cultivation, manufacture, sale and consumption all occur in state.

The law means that, going forward, Maine consumers will know the CBD shot added to their cortado at their favorite Old Port coffeehouse was extracted from homegrown Maine hemp, as was that strawberry-champagne flavored gummy purchased at a yoga and meditation retreat near Tilton Pond.

Under the new law, the sale of food products containing CBD imported from another state is prohibited. According to the Brightfield Group, a national marijuana consulting firm, consumers spent $591 million on CBD products nationwide in 2018 in the belief that it eases ailments such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and pain.

The new law has left some CBD food makers scrambling to find a local hemp source because the Maine-only requirement was not widely touted by lawmakers at the time of the bill’s passage, when most people in the industry were simply relieved that Maine was no longer ordering CBD products to be removed from shelves.

Damon Holman, a medical marijuana caregiver who specializes in turning marijuana he grows outdoors at his North Fayette farm into high-quality chocolates, gummies and candies, recently switched to a local hemp farmer in the western foothills for his new line of CBD-only products.

He began making CBD-only products for his individual patients about five years ago. He wanted to add them to his product line then, as they proved popular, but the price and availability were too volatile. He couldn’t move beyond small batches until last year, when he found a reliable Colorado supplier.

He made the decision to switch to a local CBD source for marketing purposes, before the new hemp law was adopted, because his company, Wind Hill Growers, advertises its use of local, organic ingredients in all its products, from those that showcase marijuana to the newer CBD-only lines.

Wind Hill customers have grown to expect its CBD products to be made from organic, Maine hemp.

“We’re a small market, but we are out front when it comes to local sourcing and organics,” Holman said. “It makes sense that Maine would want to do this. There hasn’t been a lot of demand for local sourcing of CBD until recently. You’re just starting to see it in the West Coast markets.”

Holman said it is too early to say if local sourcing requirements will drive up the cost of CBD foods. The market has always been so volatile that wholesalers like himself can’t really predict their costs, and have had to endure a loss of profit if forced to restock their shelves during a time of scarcity.

Mark Barnett, the owner of Higher Grounds coffee house and apothecary in Portland, has been using locally sourced CBD in his foods and products for years. Federal hemp policy was just too unclear, and the consequences of an unintentional violation too great, for him to risk buying and shipping CBD across state lines, he said.

Many Maine manufacturers and sellers of CBD products bought CBD isolate from out of state because it was readily available and was cheaper and easier to use than locally sourced full spectrum oil, Barnett said. Isolate is what is left over after all but one or two of the hemp plant’s chemical properties are stripped away, leaving a mostly pure CBD oil whose straight-forward chemistry makes it easy to melt into mass-produced food. Maine doesn’t produce much CBD isolate.

While Barnett prefers full spectrum oil, which maintains more of the plant’s chemical properties, he thinks the new law will drive up prices for full spectrum CBD oils and isolate, which will be passed along to retailers such as himself and eventually to consumers – until the Maine cultivation and extraction industry grows big enough to produce all the CBD oils needed to supply Maine costumers.

The homegrown CBD requirement was welcomed by Maine hemp farmers, who believe it will give them a profitable market for their product. While hemp can be used for many things, including fiber intended for rope or clothing, CBD extraction is the most lucrative end market for a Maine hemp farmer.

The CBD craze has jump-started Maine’s hemp industry. What began in 2016 as a small pilot program, with two farmers cultivating a quarter of an acre of hemp, has grown into a 2,700-acre industry that is made up of 165 state licensed hemp farmers, said Jim Britt, a state agriculture spokesman.

Maine hemp farmers can earn between $16,000 and $200,000 per acre, depending on their production method, product quality and end market, hemp farmer Sarah Hewitt told a legislative committee in February. Due to consumer demand and the passage of Maine’s law, the number of Maine hemp growers has doubled in a year. The number of acres in production is up five-fold.

The state is applying its homegrown requirement only to CBD-infused foods and beverages. Foods represent only one part of the fast-growing CBD edibles market – currently Maine doesn’t require local CBD use in other edibles, such as  tinctures, capsules or oils, or topical applications like salves or ointments.

Britt said the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is awaiting guidance from the state Attorney General’s Office to decide if the CBD extractions must occur in Maine, or if Maine farmers can use out of state labs to process the hemp into CBD oil for use and sale here in Maine.

Maine also is uncertain if the local hemp sourcing will remain a requirement for long. Britt said the state agriculture agency is awaiting legal guidance on whether another hemp law, this one creating an indoor cultivation pilot program, will allow for out-of-state sourcing to start again in September.

The lawmaker who introduced that bill, Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, said that was definitely not the bill’s intent, but said the Attorney General’s Office always has the final word on this kind of matter. “But none of us think they will see a problem,” he said.

Gov. Janet Mills signed emergency legislation in March that allowed for the continued sale of CBD foods in Maine, but Maine did not direct its public health and restaurant inspectors to start enforcing the local CBD requirement among retail food sellers, manufacturers and restaurants until Thursday.

Those inspectors can demand proof to demonstrate the CBD was made from hemp, not marijuana, and that it was grown by a state-licensed grower. To be considered hemp, the cannabis plant must have less than 0.3 percent of THC, the ingredient that makes a user feel high. Anything more and it’s marijuana.

Other changes that CBD-infused food consumers can expect this week:

  • All CBD-infused foods must be labeled with name, maker’s address and CBD amount, by weight.
  • No CBD-infused food retailer can make any health claims on behalf of its products.
  • The CBD extraction process must not result in any harmful solvent residues in the products.

State inspectors that find violations will work with license holders to bring them into compliance.

While Maine is giving CBD foods a thumbs-up, federal laws remain murky.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement after the Farm Bill passed saying that adding CBD to foods was not allowed under federal law because CBD is now a medicine, the active ingredient of Epidiolex, a recently approved anti-seizure drug. Under federal law, “medicine” cannot be added to food.

The new Maine law protects local farmers, manufacturers and retailers from state action, but it does not shield them from federal warnings, product seizures and law enforcement action that could arise while the FDA tries to figure out how to handle the federal legalization of hemp.

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