The director of the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency said Tuesday his agency recently seized products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, primarily to ensure compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling requirements.
“We met with public health regarding the enforcement of FDA requirements,” said Customs Director Ike Peredo. “We’ve been collaborating and working with public health on this issue.”
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.
The FDA policy also states despite the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed cannabis and cannabis derivatives that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, "that legislation specifically preserved the FDA’s responsibility over such products."
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.
Peredo told The Guam Daily Post he asked for assistance from Public Health to inspect all of the CBD products that Customs has seized “because we are concerned with the labeling requirements with regards to (the) FDA.”
The FDA requires accurate labeling on all food and drugs and bars manufacturers from making false claims about the benefits of their products.
DPHSS Director Linda DeNorcey sent a team from the Division of Environmental Health to Customs. The division is responsible for the enforcement of FDA regulations, Peredo said.
Waiting for FDA
The division investigated the labeling on the products that were seized and DPHSS sent the results of their investigation to the FDA.
If the FDA concludes that none of the products violate their regulations then all the seized products will be released.
“That’s what we’re waiting for right now – for guidance from the FDA (on) the final disposition, on whether those products met FDA regulations,” Peredo said.
On Wednesday afternoon, acting Gov. Josh Tenorio and Speaker Tina Muna Barnes met with Peredo and DeNorcey to discuss the issue.
In a statement following the meeting, Tenorio said: “I am optimistic we can resolve this issue. We have a goal of returning access to certified CBD products.”
DeNorcey declined to comment following the meeting.
'Hypocrisy at its best'
When CBD products started arriving on the island in February, Peredo said his officers tested them. “They were testing positive for THC,” said Peredo. That’s when the seizures began.
“We can’t tell what level of THC,” Peredo said. Customs lacks the sophisticated equipment necessary to conduct the precise measurement required to determine a .3% level of THC.
Customs has only been seizing air cargo shipments of CBD products. Guam Customs does not have the authority to inspect CBD products shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. “A lot of the imports have been coming in through the post office and we don’t have access to domestic mail,” Peredo said.
“They’ve seized about $10,000 worth of my product,” said Sanjay Dewan, the president and owner of the Port of Mocha coffee shops on the island. He now ships in his supply of CBD products through the Postal Service. “I bring it through Priority Mail,” he said.
Dewan said the seizures are “very silly. ” He points to the local government stopping imports on one level while the federal government via the post offices allows them in. “It’s hypocrisy at its best,” he said.
“They’re ignorant about this product,” Dewan said. “The consumer is very well informed.”
The CBD products are correctly labeled, he maintained, and they’re already being “mass sold” throughout the U.S. “If the government wanted to do something they would have done it already by now.”
Dewan says he has hired an attorney to appeal to Customs to release the products.
DEA not interested
Peredo said they started seizing the CBD products when the 2018 Farm Bill became law and not because anyone in the administration, the AG's office, or Public Health instructed.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp and the products made from it. CBD is a chemical compound derived from the hemp plant.
The Farm Bill stipulates that CBD products must not have more than .0.3% THC, which is a derivative of hemp’s better-known cousin, the marijuana plant. However, CBD can have measurable traces of THC in it and THC is still illegal under federal law, Peredo noted.
However, the levels of THC in the CBD products is a “moot” issue, said Peredo.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency advised him they would not be enforcing restrictions involving CBD products.
“We talked with DEA on this issue,” Peredo stated. “And DEA said they’re not interested in enforcing this particular imported product unless it’s tied to criminal elements.”
The Guam DEA office declined to comment on their position regarding CBD products.