by Marion Nestle

Search results: marijuana

Nov 2 2016

Marijuana-infused edibles: No money in them? Really?

As decriminalization of marijuana use proceeds steadily, I am seeing more attention focused on cannabis-infused edibles.  These are now produced commercially by businesses that go well beyond brownies.

Pediatricians, as I’ve discussed previously, are worried about kids eating them.

These days:

  • Edibles account for half of cannabis sales.
  • Baked goods alone account for 10% of cannabis sales.
  • The total cannabis market is projected to reach $27 billion this year.

But in Colorado, where such things are legal, producers are complaining that the regulatory environment is so difficult that they can’t make a profit.

According to a report in the industry newsletter, Bakery and Snacks, the profit problem was the focus of an education session at a Las Vegas conference on “The Future of Wholesale Baking with Marijuana,” conducted by two producers of infused edibles, Sweet Grass Kitchen and Love’s Oven.  Their gripes:

  • “Regulations are killing the business.”
  • “The leftover cannabis after extraction…has to be destroyed by bakery employees on camera, and locked in a compost container and sent to a compost facility.”
  • “Licensed marijuana bakers have to pay around $16,000 per month to the State of Colorado and the City of Denver for product testing conducted by a verified third-party laboratory.”
  • The labeling requirements are onerous: “It’s very difficult to stamp a baked good like a chocolate chip cookie. We don’t make Oreos. This new law has forced us all to spend a lot of capital on new machines and capabilities that are way above what a non-infused bakery of our size would typically have.”

Startups are always hard.  But with half of $27 billion at stake, and more and more states considering legalizing the stuff, I can see why they are hanging in there.

While we are on the topic, a new paper in JAMA reviews statistics on marijuana use in the U.S. and reports 7000 new users a day, and rising.  It calls for better surveillance of how much is used, and how.

I will be watching the use and the business of edibles with much interest.

Aug 4 2016

The latest in food politics: marijuana-infused edibles

JAMA Pediatrics has just published a report that cases of marijuana intoxication in young children has increased since the drug was legalized in Colorado.  The authors are careful to note that the number of cases is small relative to those that occur in kids consuming pharmaceutical drugs or household cleaning products, but the trend is not good.

Nearly half the cases occurred in kids eating foods in which THC (tetrahydrocannibinaol) is a prominent ingredient:

Known marijuana products involved in the exposure included 30 infused edible products (48%): 17 baked goods (cookies, brownies, and cake), 10 candies, and 2 popcorn products…. Ingestion of edible products continues to be a major source of marijuana exposures in children and poses a unique problem because no other drug is infused into a palatable and appetizing form. These palatable products are often indistinguishable from the noninfused products.

Dosing a drug in a “serving size” less than typically recommended for an equivalent food product also can be a source of confusion. For example, a marijuana chocolate bar can contain multiple 10-mg THC single-dose units. In adults, overconsumption of edible projects is associated with an increase in ED visits resulting from dysphoric reactions, panic attacks, and anxiety. Edibles have also been blamed for 3 adult deaths in Colorado.

Pot-laced popcorn?

One concern is that the infused edibles look like normal foods.  You have to read the fine print to see the THC label.

And they are not likely to go away.  THC-edibles are big business.  They accounted for 45% of marijuana sales last year, according to the Denver Post.

Dr. Christopher Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at Denver Health Medical Center…estimated there was a fivefold to tenfold increase in the number of patients — including a sharp rise in the number of adolescents and teenagers — arriving at the hospital after consuming part or all of a marijuana edible.

Colwell said he expected an increase in the number of marijuana cases. But he said he was surprised and concerned with the higher potency of THC in the edibles and the more severe symptoms it can cause.

Users: be careful.

Parents: keep the brownies away from kids.

I’m guessing we will be hearing  a lot more about this issuse.

Apr 26 2017

The food politics of pot: a roundup

The increasing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has many implications for food politics.  I’ve been collecting these items for the past couple of weeks.

Dixie Elixirs, a maker of edibles including its new lines of THC-infused sour cherry, grape and lemon-flavored Fruit Tarts and Blazin’ Cinnamon and Citrus Blast Dixie Gummies, spends anywhere from 50%-75% of its marketing budget on education — particularly education aimed at budtenders, said the company’s CMO Joe Hodas.

Feb 6 2017

The latest in veterinary medicine: Stoned pets

I occasionally write about the food politics of marijuana-infused edibles.

Something new every day.

Here’s the latest veterinary problem: stoned dogs.

Dogs get into their owners’ edibles.  Yum.

Veterinarians say they see cases of “canine marijuana poisoning” every day, with a big increase since 2010.

Pets get their own medical marijuana, as needed.  But edibles cause emergency room visits.

This is all so complicated.  You also have to make sure your kids don’t get into the drugs prescribed for your pets.

Lots to worry about.  Have a great week.

Sep 2 2014

Industrial hemp: “squishy” legalities. But will it replace kale?

Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill says that notwithstanding the Controlled Substances Act, The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, and other laws that govern the cultivation of marijuana, it is now OK for state agriculture departments and universities to grow “industrial” hemp for research purposes.

Industrial hemp, the Farm Bill says, means “the plant Cannabis sativa L…with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

To put this in context: the average THC potency of domestically grown recreational hemp  (a.k.a. marijuana) is about 6 percent, but can go much higher.

With so little THC in industrial hemp, why would anyone want to bother with it?   Textiles of course, but also medical purposes and dietary supplements.

Even a little THC, apparently, goes a long way.

The New York Times reports that companies are growing industrial hemp to make hemp oil as a treatment for epilepsy.

On the legalities of hemp oil, The Times explains that the

Drug Enforcement Administration is offering few clues, insisting in public statements that while it is willing to allow marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug, it might step in if growers try to sell beyond state borders…Any chemical that comes from the plant is still a controlled substance…When we get into hemp, it gets a little squishy, but it still is illegal.

Squishy?  Growing and using industrial or recreational hemp is illegal in America except in states that have made hemp legal or quasi-legal.

For example, New York State recently passed a hemp bill that would set up pilot programs for the production of industrial hemp.

At least one company is growing hemp in Colorado for use in dietary supplements.   At a trade show last year, it displayed US Hemp Oil promoted for its content of CBD—cannabidiol, a non-narcotic fraction of the hemp plant.

The company insists that CBD is a legal ingredient of dietary supplements.

Hemp, it argues, is a vegetable:

The pure oil is considered GRAS [generally recognized as safe]. Under the United States Uniform Tariff Code they tax and code hemp as a vegetable. I don’t know anything that’s a vegetable that isn’t GRAS. When we import it, it is always considered a vegetable, so that’s what we use in our declaratory actions…in March of last year Canadian company Abattis announced plans to bring a CBD-infused kombucha drink to market.

However and whether CBD works for medical purposes, everyone expects industrial hemp to be a huge cash crop for its textile and health food uses.

This is especially a boon for Kentucky, and it’s no coincidence that Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell spearheaded the hemp provision through the Farm Bill.

The boon-for-Kentucky Website provides a long list of potential applications for industrial hemp, ranging from textiles to cosmetics to auto parts.

Proponents of CBD provide an even longer list of diseases for which industrial hemp’s CBD is a treatment option.  There isn’t much research on the physiological effects of CBD.  This makes industrial hemp perfect as a dietary supplements.  It might do something.  That’s all you need for supplement marketing.

The legal battles will be fun to watch.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, there is hemp cereal—organic of course.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

May 15 2013

The Ag Committees’ Farm Bill Title IV (food stamps): Mean-Spirited

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-–Title IV in the Senate and the House farm bills—is the elephant in the room because it takes up roughly 80% of the bill’s total cost to taxpayers.   SNAP benefits cost roughly $80 billion per year for 47.5 million participants.

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the farm bill with no amendments to its draft of  the Title IV Nutrition section.  The committee proposes more than $4 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years.

Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger said of the vote:

Unfortunately…[the Senate Ag Committee] passed a bill that values foreign corporate welfare over feeding our children, seniors, and low-income working people. If this version of the Farm Bill becomes law, $4.1 billion in SNAP funding would be cut, and that would mean $90 less a month for 500,000 families already struggling to make ends meet.

For out-of-work American adults and their out-of-luck children, SNAP is a lifeline, the remaining survivor of the once effective safety net.

SNAP is an entitlement, which means that anyone who qualifies is eligible to receive benefits.  That’s how Congress set it up but with budget cuts the only issue of concern, the $80 billion annual cost of SNAP is a sitting duck.

That’s why these bills look so mean-spirited.

Apparently, Congress could not care less about making sure that the down-and-out have access to better and healthier food.

Instead, the emphasis is on reducing enrollments and preventing fraud.  Yes, fraud is a problem in SNAP, but a relatively small one.  And whether fraud is worth the time, energy, and hundreds of millions of dollars a year spent on its prevention is arguable.

But this is about politics, and it’s possible that the new anti-fraud measures may be a small price to pay for hanging onto the bulk of the benefits.

As the Senate summary puts it:

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 strengthens the integrity and accountability of federal nutrition programs. The legislation ensures that every dollar be spent responsibly so that those who need help can get it. The bill cracks down on fraud and abuse, while strengthening efforts to get food assistance to those most in need.

The proposed bill:

  • Cracks down on trafficking (and allocates $12 million per year for that purpose)
  • Prevents lottery winners from receiving benefits
  • Prevents college students from misusing benefits
  • Limits SNAP eligibility for college students
  • Prevents utility allowances from influencing size of benefits

The House summary says: “FARRM makes common-sense reforms, closes program loopholes, and cracks down on waste,fraud, and abuse saving the American taxpayer over $20 billion.”

  • Ensures all households meet the asset and income tests stated in SNAP law before they can receive benefits.
  • Updates financial resource limits to more accurately reflect low-income households.
  • Restricts categorical eligibility to only those households receiving cash assistance from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or other state general assistance programs.
  • Stops states from giving recipients utility benefit payments that increase SNAP benefits.
  • Ends SNAP benefits for lottery or gambling winners.
  • Prevents traditional college students from receiving SNAP.
  • Requires states to verify SNAP benefits are not paid to deceased individuals.
  • Requires states to verify that beneficiaries are not receiving payments in more than one state.
  • Prevents SNAP benefits from being used to pay for substantial bottle deposits when contents are dumped and bottles returned for refunds..
  • Prohibits counting medical marijuana as an income deduction for SNAP benefits.
  • Ensures illegal Immigrants do not receive SNAP benefits.
  • Prevents USDA from promoting the SNAP program through outreach via television, radio and billboard advertisements.
  • Prohibits USDA from entering into agreements with foreign governments designed to promote SNAP benefits.
  • Requires states to report outcomes on education and training programs for SNAP recipients.

Yes, most of these sound reasonable, although eliminating outreach seems like a really bad idea.  But do they represent the most serious problems with SNAP?

Where is congressional will to meet the needs of the poorest members of our society?  This is about cost-cutting and power politics.  It is not about taking care of the most vulnerable members of society, among them 23 million children.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the useful parts of this legislation—those focused on improving the health of SNAP participants—and why SNAP benefits are so contentious in this Congress.

In the meantime, the House Ag Committee does its version of the farm bill starting at 10:00 this morning.

Jun 14 2012

Would you believe 80 (no, >300!) amendments to the farm bill?

Senators, 31 of them, have introduced 80 amendments to the Senate version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012—the farm bill.

Obamafoodorama provides a handy list of the amendments.  The Senate is working through them right now.

Here are a few selections from that list, just to give you a feel for the level of detail involved in this bill.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn: Make co-ops and other entities that get a business and industry direct or guaranteed loan for a wind energy project ineligible for other federal benefits
  • Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska: Require the Agricultural Research Service to operate at least one facility in each state
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash: Encourage the purchase of pulse crop products for school meals
  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md: Establish conservation compliance for federal crop insurance
    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla:
    Limit crop insurance premium subsidies to farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $750,000. (With Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.: Strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program through cuts to crop insurance
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: Replace the food stamp program with a block grant [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
  • Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: Increase funding for the beginning farmer and rancher program
  • Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev:  Prohibit members of Congress from participating in farm programs.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis: Allow the fresh fruit and vegetable program to include dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh
  • Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass: Extend eligibility for certain emergency loans to commercial fishermen
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.: Require a study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on obesity.
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.: Increase criminal penalties for certain knowing and intentional violations relating to food that is misbranded or adulterated
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz: Repeal the sugar program [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky: Authorize the interstate shipment of unpasteurized milk
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: Promote maple syrup research and production
  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.: Prohibit the Labor secretary from finalizing a proposed rule related to child labor on farms
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa: Eliminate the farmers market and local food promotion program
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore: Amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana; Establish a federal task force on childhood obesity; Require the Agriculture secretary to carry out pilot projects to improve nutrition under the food stamp program.

Now is the time to let your Senators know where you stand on these issues.  The farm bill still has a long way to go—the House hasn’t taken it up yet—but what the Senate decides will surely be influential.  Get busy!

Update, 4:00 p.m.:  Food Chemical News report that 80 is a gross underestimation of the number of amendments; the number since yesterday has neared or exceeded 300.

Update, 4:15 p.m.: Here’s a link to the Sunlight Foundation’s report on the money behind the farm bill.  About sugar, it says:

Sugar. On Wednesday, big sugar beat back an attempt by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to eliminate a decades-old sugar price support program. The Senate voted 50 to 46 to table her amendment.

Sugar interests such as American Crystal Sugar and Flo-Sun Inc. are among the biggest campaign contributors in the agribusiness sector, giving to Democrats and Republicans alike.

The sugar industry gains strength from having two geographic strongholds–the South, where sugar cane is grown, and the mid-west, the source of sugar beets.

However, sugar’s opponents, the interests that buy sugar for their products, is also quite formidable. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which supported the Shaheen amendment, include such heavyweights as the American Beverage Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the Snack Food Association, which in turn have powerful corporate membership.

May 15 2011

Foods with benefits? Oh, please.

Sunday’s New York Times has not one but two articles about “functional foods,” those with something added over and above what’s in the food in the first place.

A front-page story, “Dessert, laid-back and legal,” describes brownies.  No, not brownies laced with marijuana.  This time they contain the sleep-inducing drug melatonin.

The brownies, according to the Times, contain just as much melatonin as are found in drug pills but are cheaper and can be purchased with food stamps (another reason for taking a look at the whole question of SNAP benefits?).

Since melatonin is a drug and not an approved food additive, the makers of these products are trying to get around the annoying FDA restrictions by marketing the brownies as “dietary supplements.”  Supplements, by order of Congress when it passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, do not have to meet FDA’s rigorous scientific criteria for safety or efficacy.

DSHEA applied to supplements, not foods, but the FDA has chosen to regulate foods containing such additives by the weaker rules applying to supplements and to deal with them as a regulatory gray area.   Is melatonin a drug, a supplement, or in brownie from a food?  The FDA is going to have to decide this, and fast.

A much longer story in the business section, “Foods with benefits, or so they say” (in which I am quoted) focuses on the entire point of functional foods: the ability to put something in a product that allows you to market it using health and wellness claims.  Health claims sell food products.  People like buying products with a “health aura,” no matter how poorly the health claim is supported by science.  Science is irrelevant here.  Marketing is what’s relevant.

As I discuss in my book, Food Politics, until the early 1990s, the FDA did not allow health claims on food products.  Claiming a specific health benefit for a food, said the FDA, meant that the food was being marketed as a drug.  If a food was being marketed as a drug, it needed to prove safety and efficacy, something no food maker wanted to do.

When Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1990, it struck a deal with the food industry.  The industry was objecting that because Nutrition Facts labels required them to say what was bad about their products, they ought to be allowed to say what was good about them.  Congress agreed, and forced the FDA to review the science linking certain food ingredients to health benefits as a basis for permitting health claims.

The FDA approved some claims but rejected others.  The rejected companies took the FDA to court, and the courts mostly ruled in favor of the companies on the grounds of the First Amendment.  The FDA stopped trying to control unsupported health claims and only recently has taken then on again.

But as sales soar, federal regulators worry that some packaged foods that scream healthy on their labels are in fact no healthier than many ordinary brands. Federal Trade Commission officials have been cracking down on products that, in their view, make dubious or exaggerated claims. Overwhelmed regulators concede that they are struggling to police this booming market, despite recent settlements with makers of brands like Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Dannon’s Activia, which the authorities say oversold their health benefits.

To the distress of international food marketers, the U.S. currently has much looser regulations about health claims than are available in Europe.  The European Food Safety Authority has been reviewing thousands of petitions for health claims on food products and turning most of them down as scientifically unsubstantiated.  That doesn’t stop American food makers from loading on the claims.

From the ivory tower in which I sit, the remedy is easy: don’t allow health claims on processed foods at all.  The claims are all inherently misleading, as would be obvious if you gave it a minute’s thought.

But if they aren’t worth much to you, they are worth plenty to the marketers of processed foods.  And that’s what this is really about.