Customs chief: Releasing CBD products contrary to law

STATEMENTS: Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency representatives are among officials who commented on the issue of releasing edible cannabidiol, or CBD, products to the public before. Screenshot courtesy of the Guam Legislature's YouTube channel

The Chief of the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency disagrees with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s decision to order the release of all cannabidiol or CBD products seized by the agency since late February.

“I’m afraid to see that ... we are allowing the products in," said Vincent Perez during an informational briefing held in the Guam Congress Building on Tuesday. “I personally disagree with (the decision) because we are doing things that are contrary (to) what the law is telling us to do.”

Last Friday, in the wake of heavy pressure from business interests whose products were seized, the governor said "after careful review by my office and in consultation with the attorney general, 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.”

During the Tuesday briefing called by Sen. Clynt Ridgell, chairman of the agriculture committee, Customs and Quarantine Director Ike Peredo said his officers are no longer seizing CBD products and, as of last Friday, when the governor issued her order, the agency began releasing all the products that had been seized.

Perez, however, expressed concern. “Can you imagine if we have CBD products from China, the Philippines?" he asked. “Where does it end?”

Deputy Attorney General Jessica Toft advised that the 2018 farm bill only legalized “industrial hemp” provided that its THC content does not exceed 0.3%. 

THC is derived largely from the marijuana plant – its the chemical that causes the “high.” It's also found, to a lesser extent, in hemp whose primary chemical component is CBD. CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC remain illegal under federal law.

Toft emphasized that it’s “the THC that’s literally in hemp” that has been exempted from the Controlled Substance Act and not the THC that has been extracted along with CBD to make other products. That still remains illegal, she said.

However, the level of THC content in CBD products is “moot for us,” Peredo said.

When Customs first began seizing CBD products in late February, Customs officers were checking for the presence of THC. But Peredo said they’re not checking for it anymore. “We’re allowing those things to go through,” he said. 

He said Customs can test for the presence of THC but their equipment can’t measure whether the level is 0.3% or greater.  

If the FDA finds that the labels are making false health claims and pose a danger to the public, then the products will be seized, the Public Health department has stated.

It’s easier to seize products “at the border,” said Perez, who pointed out that it would be much harder to try and remove products that have been released by Customs. “When are we going to protect our island?” he asked.

Last week, Peredo also told The Guam Daily Post that he checked with the Drug Enforcement Agency, which told him they’re not interested in enforcing THC restrictions on CBD products, “unless it’s tied to criminal elements.”

Peredo said Customs officers “will continue to conduct inspections” of CBD products and “if they have concerns, those concerns will be referred to the Department of Public Health and Social Services for further guidance.”

It’s all about the safety of the products and the veracity of the labels on those products, Public Health Director Linda DeNorcey said.

The Food and Drug Administration “continues to be concerned over the numerous CBD products that are being marketed for therapeutic or medical uses which have not been approved by the FDA,” she said.

DeNorcey said officials with her Environmental Health Division inspected the CBD products seized by Customs and sent their findings to the FDA for their review.

“The FDA has confirmed receipt and will provide feedback,” DeNorcey said. If the FDA conclude that all of the labels on the products that were seized by Customs were accurate, then “no problem,” she said.

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