We thank Attorney General Leevin Camacho and Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency Chief Vincent Perez for doing what's right for the public on the issue of cannabidiol, or CBD, products that are being sold as candy, drinks, food and food supplements.
Recently, both have taken a stance toward ensuring the government of Guam makes careful decisions to protect the public's health and that GovGuam officials follow the law and health safeguards.
The attorney general's and Customs chief's recent comments offer some reassurance that at least some in GovGuam aren't blindly following cues from the governor's office.
Their comments were issued on the heels of a decision by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero a week ago. She urged Guam's Customs agency to release CBD products that the agency had seized. She agreed to have the products released even before a U.S. Food and Drug Administration response to Guam's query on whether the products are OK for public consumption and in compliance with FDA labeling requirements.
The governor had been under pressure from business interests whose products were seized.
On Friday, the governor said, in part, "We intend to release the seized CBD products by our Customs Agency while still ensuring we adhere to all federal and local laws and regulations." The governor mentioned her office consulted the AG's office, but based on a statement from the AG's office Thursday, we wonder if there was miscommunication or a misunderstanding.
The governor's decision to release the seized products without having to wait for the FDA was a bad call, particularly by someone who got elected into office with an emphasis on health care.
In his statement Thursday, Guam's attorney general stated: "Guam consumers need to know that any CBD products they are drinking, eating or putting on their bodies are safe and are being marketed accurately." Camacho made the statement after announcing he had joined a coalition of 37 state and territorial attorneys general urging federal cooperation to protect consumers from false advertising and harms to their health from products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including cannabidiol.
In a policy published recently, the FDA states, among other things, "it is currently illegal to put into interstate commerce a food to which CBD has been added, or to market CBD as, or in, a dietary supplement." The FDA policy, posted on its website, states it is current as of June 19.
If a product is being marketed as a drug that's intended to have a therapeutic effect, then it's regulated as a drug, and it generally cannot be sold without FDA approval, the FDA policy states. In the case of an over-the-counter drug, the product must have an FDA monograph.
From the Customs chief's standpoint, it was wrong to release the seized CBD products before they could be cleared by the FDA because it would be difficult to retrieve them later if the FDA says they should not be sold or made available for public consumption.
"I personally disagree with (the release of the seized CBDs) because we are doing things that are contrary (to) what the law is telling us to do," Perez said in a recent legislative roundtable.
Customs Director Ike Peredo, prior to being overruled by the governor, told The Guam Daily Post that he asked for assistance from the Department of Public Health and Social Services to inspect all the CBD products that Customs has seized, "because we are concerned with the labeling requirements with regards to (the) FDA." Public Health, in turn, sought the assistance of the FDA.
The verification process was already in place to wait for FDA input on the seized products, so it's puzzling to see the governor telling agency heads to sidestep that process.
We need more officials like the attorney general and Customs chief. They know whose interests to look after.