There is interesting news coming from the CBD and beverage alcohol front. As we have previously written, the 2018 Farm Bill legitimized hemp as a commercial agricultural commodity and removed it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). TTB, the federal alcohol regulatory body, permitted hemp-derived products, specifically hemp seed and hemp seed oil, to be used as ingredients in alcoholic beverages. Most beverage alcohols require formula approval (including list of ingredients and method of manufacture) to be submitted to TTB (and granted) prior to the introduction of the product into the marketplace. The use of any hemp, other than the derivatives mentioned above, would preclude TTB from issuing formula approval.

With more and more states legalizing cannabis both medicinally and recreationally, entrepreneurs and established businesses are entering the THC/CBD marketplace. Naturally, producers of alcoholic beverages are clamoring to include cannabis and its derivatives in their drinks. In fact, some have taken to producing non-alcoholic beverages, under their recognized brand names, with cannabis (THC and CBD) as an ingredient (in states were legal). Manufacturers of alcohol beverages and other stakeholders have been looking for clarification from alcohol regulatory authorities on the use of CBD in their products. As of this writing, TTB’s position is that CBD-derived from hemp is currently impermissible as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages (and cannabis derived CBD remains illegal under federal law).

On April 25th, TTB issued an industry circular reiterating its position that only hemp seed and hemp seed oil are permitted ingredients. TTB also stated that it will consult with the FDA in determining if the use of certain ingredients, such as hemp-derived CBD, violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Interestingly, the FDA is holding a public hearing on May 31st, seeking data on the safety of CBD products. TTB will likely follow the lead of the FDA’s findings.

The issuance of the circular, in this writer’s mind, indicates that TTB is hearing the calls of CBD/alcohol beverage stakeholders for guidance. It also indicates that TTB is likely considering the permissibility of hemp-derived CBD as an ingredient, if FDA finds no fault with its use. It may not be as long as we anticipated before we see alcoholic beverage infused with CBD.