(C)ould (B)e (D)isastrous

Dale J. Venturini
President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

As of late, you may have noticed the increased availability of CBD, also known as cannabidiol, at local gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, bars and everywhere in between. CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana and hemp plants, has seen its popularity skyrocket due to its non-intoxicating, therapeutic properties which include pain relief, reduced anxiety and depression, and much more. Available in topical solutions, consumable tinctures and various other forms, CBD oil is seemingly flooding the market, but questions remain regarding its federal legality. While CBD oil that comes from hemp plants is legal on a federal level, if it comes from a marijuana plant, it is not, since those plants are prohibited by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

How does this affect the hospitality industry? If you have been paying attention, you would know that many restaurateurs and liquor purveyors are looking to capitalize on the trend by infusing food and beverages with CBD oil. Even if the CBD oil they are utilizing is legal and below the 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration threshold, at the federal level, mixing CBD into consumables like food and beverage is illegal in compliance with The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act.

One major concern is the drug-interactions between alcohol and CBD. Past studies have shown that CBD and alcohol may amplify each other’s effects, including drowsiness, sedation and impaired motor skills. However, many of the studies regarding alcohol and CBD are outdated and utilized questionable methodology which saw participants being given much higher dosages of CBD than most people would typically ingest. Regardless, the Rhode Island Hospitality Association would like to caution its members, and any business throughout the state offering CBD-infused alcohol, about the potential repercussions associated with serving illegally infused cocktails. While CBD-infused food is not considered to be dangerous in comparison to its alcoholic counterpart, it is still illegal under federal law to serve these items.

Recently, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answer questions and share health risks and potential benefits posed to consumers from the consumption of hemp-derived CBD oil. In comments made to the FDA, the NRA noted that in its most recent survey, 75 percent of chefs surveyed reported cannabis/CBD-oil infused products as the first or second most important industry topic developing in the marketplace. The NRA has encouraged the FDA to move swiftly to address the consumer demand for these products and also work to create a legal regulatory pathway for the safe use of CBD. Recently, the FDA reported that it will expedite its effort to create a regulatory framework for CBD with plans to report on its progress by early fall.*

It is the Rhode Island Hospitality Association’s duty to ensure that our members are aware of the law, are properly educated on the subject and are implementing best practices. We do not want to see any business adversely affected because they are serving CBD-infused consumables, not knowing that they are doing so illegally. We are not taking a stance for or against CBD oil, or its usage as a holistic medicine; we are simply concerned about the lack of well-communicated regulations regarding its usage as a consumable product. We ask that our members conduct their own independent research and cease selling CBD-infused food and drink until there is a more clear-cut regulatory pathway for the legal sale of such products.

*National Restaurant Assciation FRONT BURNER. "Re: Association Provides Guidance for FDA on Cannabis-Containing Compounds." Message to Dale Venturini, 23 July 2019 Dale@rihospitality.org