Upcoming hearings

• The Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing looking at the “safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale” of products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD at 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 31 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Requests to testify in person must be made by May 10. Electronic or written comments will be accepted until July 2.

• The Oregon Department of Agriculture will hold a public hearing to discuss proposed rule changes for growing, handling, retail sales and testing of industrial hemp at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Department of Agriculture basement hearing room, 635 Capitol St. SE, Salem. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. May 7.

Ballet dancer Josh Deininger has tried a lot of products to ease his muscle and joint pains.

As the artistic director at the Central Oregon School of Ballet and principal artist for major productions, his joints, particularly his knees, take a beating.

So when a friend of his launched Mission Farms CBD in Bend, he was willing to try the topical cream or gel products derived from industrial hemp.

“The products worked well,” Deininger said. “It helped me relieve joint pain far better than any of the traditional over-the-counter products I’ve tried.”

Deininger is like many others who have turned to hemp-derived CBD products that claim to help with sleep, pain, nausea and myriad other health issues.

But the reality is that only one condition has been clinically tested to prove CBD actually helps, and that’s childhood epilepsy. The health claims are so varied that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned companies about making “unsubstantiated claims related to more than a dozen different products.”

“There are a lot of gray areas,” said Dr. Colin Roberts, a neurologist who leads Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s epilepsy program at Oregon Health & Science University. “Rarely do we have so much interest in a product when we don’t have the science one way or the other.”

At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Susan R.B. Weiss, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse extramural research, said in 2016, that CBD has potential value for these health issues, but controlled studies are lacking.

Some say it’s the Wild West of CBD products, and consumers need to beware because demand is outpacing regulatory oversight.

“The reality is when we make a statement that something works for a condition, we need data and research to back up that claim,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot we need to do with cannabis, yet we assume because it’s so widespread there must be something to these claims, otherwise it wouldn’t be in stores.”

It could take the FDA another six months to a year to create rules around CBD. In the meantime, consumers in Oregon can buy CBD products in recreational marijuana shops, at places like Walgreens and CBD specialty stores.

“It’s confusing because these products really are supposed to be regulated by the federal government,” said Sunny Summers, Oregon Department of Agriculture cannabis policy and special projects coordinator. “The claims out there can be wild.”

Consumers buying CBD products at marijuana shops, which are regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, can be assured the products have been subject to the same testing as marijuana, said Mark Pettinger, OLCC spokesman. CBD products from hemp or marijuana plants must contain less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes people feel high.

Because CBD from industrial hemp is an agriculture product, the Oregon Department of Agriculture oversees food items and the packaging, labeling, concentration amounts and sourcing, Summers said. The agriculture department does not regulate health claims.

Products sold online or sourced from other countries do not receive scrutiny from Oregon agriculture officials.

But a CBD specialty store can sell Oregon-sourced products, as well as products that come from other states or countries.

It’s a buyer beware kind of situation, said Tim Fratto, owner of Central Oregon CBD, a processing company.

“There are different levels of quality, and people believe the hype that CBD cures diseases. It’s a treatment, not a cure. There are a lot of companies lying to the public.”

At a Mother’s Juice Cafe in Bend, a sign by the cash register says CBD is healthy because it can help with sleep, inhibit cancer growth, reduce vomiting and pain, stimulate appetite, reduce inflammation and treat fungal infections, to name just a few claims.

For a price customers can get a boost of CBD added to a drink or menu item. “The CBD industry is still developing,” said Violet Robles, a partner at Rooted Hemp Co. and general manager of Mother’s Juice. “We’re basically a CBD cafe.”

At Mother’s, store clerks are told to only pass along personal experiences about using CBD without making health claims, Robles said. The growth of the CBD industry has boosted sales by 20%, she said.

CBD from the farm

At a farm in Tumalo, the varied uses of CBD brought eight partners together to form Mission Farms CBD, which grows hemp on 22 acres and processes it into oils, creams, soaps and gels.

The fields are tested as required by the Oregon Department of Agriculture for THC content, but they are not tested for mold. When processed and manufactured, the hemp-derived CBD is tested for pesticides and residual solvents, as required by agriculture department rules, Summers said.

For food products, the agriculture department oversees food safety, and items are required to have a potency test, but there’s no verification required, Summers said.

“There are gray areas, which is why it’s so confusing,” Summers said. “The laws haven’t caught up yet to where the industry has gotten to.”

Today, Mission Farms CBD’s fields are barren. Just the wild turkeys roam the fields. But come later this month, seedlings will sprout in the greenhouses and then be transplanted to the fields. Harvest begins in the fall, said Ryan Norton, a partner with Mission Farms CBD.

In December, the company partnered with the Bend Soap Co. to manufacture and distribute CBD creams, oils, soaps and gels.

“CBD is a unique compound,” said Ben Joyce, CEO of Mission Farms CBD. “That’s why it’s excellent for so many things. We are standing in the Napa Valley of hemp because we grow such great quality here.”

Driven by CBD, hemp is poised to become a $1 billion industry in Oregon. The state ranks third, behind Montana and Colorado, in acreage dedicated to industrial hemp, which is used to make CBD, according to New Frontier Data, a Washington, D.C., cannabis analytics firm.

Nearly two-thirds of the hemp grown in the U.S. is being used for CBD. In Oregon there were 7,808 acres of hemp in 2018, compared to 500 acres in 2016, according to New Frontier Data.

Much is still unknown about CBD and how it interacts with the body, which is why consumers need to educate themselves before purchasing products, Fratto said.

Deininger said he even conducted his own experiment by putting CBD gel on one knee and none on the other. He said he noticed a difference the next morning.

“I felt an absence of pain on the one knee that had the gel on it,” he said. “I tried to take a scientific approach there. It isn’t inexpensive product, and you want to make sure you get your money’s worth.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com