A mixture of of extracted hemp CBD and coconut oil is transferred to capsules at Colorado hemp company CBDRx. (Kira Horvath, Daily Camera file)

Denver officials scrutinizing out-of-state CBD products sold in local pot shops

Denver is clamping down on CBD products that originate outside of Colorado.

A bulletin issued Wednesday by Denver Environmental Health’s Public Health Inspections Division outlines a policy prohibiting out-of-state-made cannabidiol (CBD) products intended for human consumption.

“It has come to DEH’s attention that some CBD products originate from unregulated manufacturing facilities, have been illegally shipped across state lines, contain unapproved ingredients, or have been made in unsafe manufacturing conditions,” officials wrote in the bulletin. “When DEH encounters these products, retailers and manufacturers may be subject to DEH enforcement and requests for additional information to demonstrate that the product was manufactured safely.”

Although Denver regulates and inspects local manufacturers of ingested and inhaled CBD products, not all of the CBD items sold in Denver are subject to those regulations. Some products with CBD, a component of the cannabis plant that is non-psychoactive unlike THC, are sourced from outside of Denver, the state of Colorado and the United States, and are made without the oversight of any regulatory agency, officials said.

Manufacturers who cannot demonstrate whether their products came from standardized processes in a safe facility could be subject to enforcement action and restrictions in Denver, officials said.

Denver officials have started contacting CBD product manufacturers in addition to authorities from other jurisdictions and the state, said Abby Davidson, the Public Health Inspection Division’s food safety and marijuana program manager. For products manufactured outside of Denver but in Colorado, officials plan to evaluate those on a case-by-case basis, she added.

“CBD is a therapeutic product and that’s something that really made us feel that this is an important issue — to make sure the products on the shelf (for human consumption) are safe,” Abby Davidson, Public Health Inspections Division’s food safety and marijuana program manager, told The Cannabist.

Some of the city’s chief concerns with various CBD products are that they come from other countries; are improperly labeled; boast unsubstantiated health claims; contain unsafe additives; and are made in facilities that do not have proper standards such as sanitizing and hand-washing, she said.

“We didn’t really understand the breadth of the CBD industry and, up until hearing some more from operators and them reaching out to us, we didn’t even fathom that CBD sources were possibly coming from out of the country,” she said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration enacted a new rule that established a drug code for “marihuana extracts,” such as CBD oil. DEA officials said the change was purely administrative and was made to assist with research requests; however, hemp industry advocates have argued — and subsequently filed a legal complaint — that the code and comments that CBD is a Schedule I substance open the door for enforcement action against the products.

Denver officials’ experiences were the impetus for the city’s policy change, she said.

“I do know that we did not receive any directive from the (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) to take action,” she said. “Denver has some unique authorities that let us really do what we’re here to do: It’s to protect the consumer. Our role is to protect the consumer and err on the side of caution.”

When reached late Wednesday, Robert Goulding, the spokesman for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, said that “if any MED-licensed facilities are selling out-of-state marijuana or marijuana products, that would be a clear violation of MED rules and/or statute.”

As soon as Denver-based Peak MJ dispensary owner Justin Henderson saw the bulletin, he and staff members started to pore through the shop’s CBD offerings. Of the 700 individual cannabis products the south Broadway shop carries, about 40 to 50 are CBD-related, he said.

“We’re still trying to wrap our heads around what this actually means, how many products will be affected,” he said. “We’ll most likely wait until there’s an approved list that comes out from (enforcement officials).” Henderson added that if a product was registered in the state’s seed-to-sale tracking program it would be another avenue for verification.

Read the Denver Department of Environmental Health’s bulletin on CBD products: