Mitch McConnell, the FDA and CBD: An unexpected alliance

By James Ainsworth

Mitch McConnell has certainly been a polarizing figure in national politics and one of the most powerful leaders in Washington. He has always been a shrewd partisan, skillfully wielding his political power on behalf of his fellow Republicans and to the detriment and ire of his Democrat opponents. From blocking a vote on Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, to refusing to allow votes on background checks for gun sales and an assault weapons ban, to blocking money for protecting our electoral systems from Russian cyber-attacks – Mitch McConnell has become one of the most controversial figures in American politics. It is estimated that he has blocked about 400 bills that have been passed by Democrats since they won control of the House of Representatives in November, 2018.

For all the negative reasons why Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in the news these days, CBD users can take heart. Senator McConnell has used his considerable power and clout in Washington to become a major supporter of the hemp industry and also thereby promoting CBD. More recently, McConnell has crafted an amendment that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clarify rules under which hemp can be distributed as a food and health supplement, until it establishes long-term laws governing CBD and THC products. Currently, there is a great deal of confusion and inconsistency in how CBD, THC and hemp and cannabis products are treated under federal law.

To understand why McConnell is supportive of CBD – as well as the legalization of hemp – one need look no further than the maxim, “All politics is local.” Senator McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is gradually emerging as one of the nation’s largest producers of hemp, just behind Montana, Colorado, Oregon. The Kentucky state government has a major hemp program, and the state sees hemp as a potential alternative to its tobacco industry, which for decades was reliant on federal government subsidies. Mitch McConnell also provided key leadership on the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of hemp and was a turning point in the industry, opening opportunities that hemp proponents had been seeking for years.

Whatever fears, feelings, joy or resentment may be attached to Mitch McConnell’s name, it is clear that his listens to and is a friend of America’s burgeoning hemp industry. Building upon his efforts with the 2018 Farm Bill, McConnell is facilitating the growth of CBD as a food and health supplement, by requiring a set timetable for the FDA to define how it will regulate CBD. However, it also may seem as if McConnell is reacting to trends in the CBD industry rather than being a true leader. It can be said that the genie is already out of the bottle – according to a Gallup poll CBD is being used by 1 in 7 Americans and is expected to become a $22 billion industry by 2022, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

McConnell consulted the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a major hemp industry association, in crafting language for the amendment.

“In the short run, the McConnell language would help lift the current regulatory cloud that’s been discouraging financial institutions to work with CBD companies, and that’s encouraged some local government officials to suggest that CBD is illegal in their state,” U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in a statement. “In the long run, it would set forward a fair and expeditious path for hemp CBD products to be formally recognized as safe and legal as a matter of federal law.”

As CBD use becomes more widespread and accepted in mainstream American society, both politicians and regulators will be forced to recognize CBD popularity and extraordinary healing potential.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing the FDA to move on CBD regulations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) The Associated Press


James Ainsworth