Hemp – Industrial, Not Marijuana!

A heated discussion of hemp products for use in pet food took place at the August AAFCO meeting in Bellevue, Washington. This ended up being one of the most entertaining sessions for me. While I am not a proponent of recreational marijuana, that is my personal choice. The drug has been legalized in many states (including Washington, where the meeting was held). Placing a group of governmental regulators in a meeting room in this jurisdiction was laughable.

Most state pet and animal feed regulators report they are receiving two to three inquiries per week on the use of hemp meals and oils in pet and animal feed. A regulator from Montana reported that a rancher in the state is raising hundreds of acres of hemp to feed to his cattle. According to current regulations, this is perfectly legal. The owner of the herd is allowed to feed whatever he wants; there are no regulations stating what cattle must be fed. However, if he wanted to package and sell that feed, he would need regulatory approval. No one asks what the cattle were fed when they are sent to slaughter (USDA doesn’t care). I wonder if these cattle taste better? The regulator from Montana was frustrated and basically looking forward to retirement so he would no longer have to deal with this rancher.

The state officials from Colorado and Virginia were probably the most logical people in the room. They realized that there is federal law that allows growth of industrial hemp according to Farm Bill 2013. The bill removes federal restrictions aimed at growing industrial hemp and allows any states that have legalized its manufacturing to set up research programs to study the benefits of cultivating it. The hemp fields are tightly regulated and tested to ensure the THC content is less than 0.3%. If the field contains high THC, the field is destroyed. The regulators from these two states are actually working with stake holders to study animal nutrition and safety data and impact on agribusiness.

Hemp seed IS being used in human food … as industrial hemp … not as marijuana. The FDA officials in the room, along with many state regulators sitting in the audience (many sitting around me) were livid about Susan Thixton’s statement that consumers WANT to see hemp seed meal and hemp seed oil in pet food and treats. Consumers perceive that the potential benefits of cannabidiol oils in the hemp will help the health of their pets. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but it IS a perceived benefit. By hiding their heads in the sand (or underwater), the regulatory officials are putting off dealing with the situation. Unfortunately, the biggest problem I saw in the room was the inability by the officials to distinguish that INDUSTRIAL HEMP is NOT marijuana. Until they can understand the science and difference between two very different products, they continue to show their ignorance in this field.

The regulators (and whispering, eye-rolling, belittling folks in the audience) stated that hemp falls under a drug and therefore, is not considered by AAFCO and FDA in this situation because they do not deal with drugs that treat disease. Hmmm…..

Aren’t these the same people that regulate prescription diets that can only be purchased with a veterinary prescription from veterinary suppliers? IF IT REQUIRES A PRESCRIPTION, IT IS CONSIDERED A DRUG.

So, they either need to get out of the prescription food (feed) business, since they do not regulate drugs, or they need to change the definition of their organization and their duties to reflect that they are in the business of selling prescription products.

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