Bob Morgan illinois state representative

Chicago Tribune: What’s in that CBD gummy? Testing of all CBD products proposed as sales skyrocket.

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OCT 02, 2019 | 11:59 AM


The CBD products that populate shelves at Walgreens, gas stations and other retailers in Illinois could be subject to lab testing under a bill introduced in the Illinois legislature Wednesday.

The bill, from Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, would require all CBD products sold in the state to meet testing requirements that would be developed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

CBD-infused products, which include everything from caramels and dog treats to oils and bath bombs, have become ubiquitous on retail shelves during the past year. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a cannabis compound that does not get users high.

Consumers use the products to alleviate conditions like anxiety or chronic pain, but the items remain largely unregulated. Some products put themselves through third-party testing to prove they contain the promised levels of CBD, but there is no standard requirement.

“This legislation would give the Department of Agriculture the ability to step in to make sure we are selling products that are safe for people to use,” Morgan said.

The health and safety concerns surrounding CBD are wide-ranging, said Coco Meers, co-founder of Chicago-based CBD company Equilibria. There could be harmful pesticides or heavy metals in the products, or the cream a consumer buys might not actually contain the amount of promised CBD, robbing a consumer of any therapeutic benefits, she said.

When Equilibria was searching for a supply chain partner, “we were really unnerved by the lack of consistency and regulation, and the wide variety of manufacturing processes that companies were using,” Meers said. “At the end of the day, everything gets called CBD, but all CBD is not created equal.”

The proposed bill would require any products for sale that don’t have the required tests to be removed from store shelves and online shops, Morgan said. Potential fines start at $1,000 and increase with more violations.

The fines collected would go to a newly created CBD Safety Fund, which would be used for enforcement.

Last year, President Donald Trump legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, from which CBD can be derived. Since then, federal regulators have worked to catch up to the products flooding into the market.

Sales of CBD products are expected to reach $5 billion this year — a more than 700% increase from last year, according to Chicago-based cannabis research firm Brightfield Group. By 2023, it could grow to $23.7 billion.

States have taken various approaches to regulating CBD products. Indiana, for example, requires CBD labels to have QR codes that link to information about the batch, such as its ingredients. A California bill would require manufacturers of food containing CBD i to prove the hemp it came from had been grown within a regulated industrial hemp program.

Chicago-based LeafyQuick, a retailer of CBD products, only sells products that have been tested, said co-founder Rahul Easwar. But the customers are rarely concerned about that.

“When we tell them, ‘Hey, this is third-party tested,’ it’s more like, ‘OK great, but tell me what flavor you have,’” he said. “It’s more of an afterthought or it’s not a thought at all.”

Since customers aren’t demanding to know what’s in their CBD products, a state-mandated test would help ensure consumers are buying safe products, Easwar said.

“That puts the level of control at a higher level than whatever the consumer is demanding right now,” he said. “Consumers are (becoming) aware they should be asking about these things, especially when they’re ingesting the product.”