Law \ Legal

Will MLB And Charlotte’s Web Finally Convince The FDA To Do Its Job?

Hand holding baseball in glove with blue sky

Nice catch!

While the FDA has done little to advance cannabidiol (CBD) regulations, Major League Baseball (MLB) is taking the lead in regulating and marketing these products.

Earlier this month, MLB became the first major professional sports league to partner with Charlotte’s Web, one of the leading CBD companies in the country.

This multiyear partnership agreement stems from MLB’s desire to address baseball players’ increased demand and use of CBD by providing them access to safe products.

The new line of CBD tinctures, called Sport Daily Edge, which harbors the MLB logo on its packaging, is independently tested and certified by NSF International (NSF) to ensure it meets MLB’s high safety standards and can be promoted across MLB events and media platforms. NSF is an independent product testing, inspection, and certification organization that assists manufacturers and regulators across the globe with developing public health standards and minimizing adverse health effects.

Sport Daily Edge’s bearing of the NSF certification demonstrates Charlotte’s Web and MLB’s commitment to quality, compliance, and safety, but also sets a high standard for the industry.

This landmark partnership in baseball and sports is exciting though not entirely surprising. Both MLB and Charlotte’s Web have been instrumental in legitimizing the hemp and CBD industry.

For years now, Charlotte’s Web has been strongly advocating for the development of a clear and robust regulatory framework for full-spectrum hemp products that would protect consumers while meeting their demands. Not only has the company been a pioneer in regulating the industry, it has consistently challenged the FDA’s persistent position against the sale and marketing of these products and has publicly questioned the FDA’s plan, or lack thereof, to develop a much-needed regulatory framework following the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill).

For its part, MLB has been among the most progressive professional sports organizations in the U.S. when it comes to cannabis. For example, in 2020, the league removed cannabis from its list of banned substances and announced it would not punish players for using cannabis while they are not working. These significant policies changes, which focus on treatment rather than penalties, have paved the way for other professional athletic governance bodies that recently relaxed their rules around cannabinoids, including the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Sadly, this shift has not occurred on an international level as was revealed last summer when U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the Olympics over a positive THC test.

But more than a landmark partnership, this association between MLB and Charlotte’s Web and the promotion of CBD products for their health and wellness purposes openly defies the FDA’s current position on these products. As I have discussed ad nauseam in this column, the federal agency takes issue with promoting the therapeutic value of CBD and other hemp-derived products and has focused most of its efforts on issuing warnings letters to these marketers.

But this defiance is not unexpected either. Since the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, Charlotte’s Web has repeatedly criticized the FDA (rightfully so) for failing to establish a national, uniform regulatory framework for CBD products and has blamed the agency’s passiveness for the industry’s slow economic growth.

This latest development in major league sports, along with the FDA’s recent hiring of cannabis policy expert, Norman Birenbaum — Birenbaum is a former cannabis official in Rhode Island and New York and the former president of the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of cannabis regulators established to share institutional knowledge and develop cannabis best practices — are positive steps toward the regulation of hemp-derived products like CBD. I can only hope that the FDA will recognize the valuable work and contributions made by stakeholders like Charlotte’s Web and MLB in shaping and legitimizing the industry, and lean on them as well as on policy experts like Birenbaum, to finalize its position on the manufacture, sale, and marketing of these products, and consequently, bring regulatory certainty to the industry and consumers.

nathalie bougenies headshotNathalie Bougenies focuses her practice on health and wellness, in addition to corporate transactions and regulatory compliance. For the past four years, Nathalie has helped clients navigate the complex regulatory landscape of hemp products intended for human consumption and advises domestic and international clients on the sale, distribution, marketing, labeling, and importation of these products. Nathalie frequently speaks on these issues and has made national media appearances, including on NPR’s “Marketplace.” She also authors a weekly column for “Above the Law” that features content on cannabis policy and regulation. For four consecutive years, Nathalie has been named Rising Star by Super Lawyers.

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