CBD foods pulled from Upper Valley store shelves after N.H. Liquor Commission warning

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2019 10:10:26 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Staff at the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society have pulled beverages and food products containing CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical found in hemp or marijuana, from the shelves of all of their stores on both sides of the Connecticut River.

They took down the five products containing cannabidiol — four drinks and some chocolate truffles — after receiving a notice from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission earlier this month telling retailers and manufacturers that CBD is “is not allowed to be added to food” because it is not on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of approved additives.

Manufacturing or selling food and beverages containing CBD “may result in a fine and/or a loss of your license in New Hampshire and possibly a loss of your (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) brewers permit,” according to the Liquor Commission’s June 5 notice.

Though regulators have not yet taken enforcement action on this point, Allan Reetz, spokesman for the Co-op, said it is the Co-op’s practice to abide by relevant laws. But it can be hard to understand how to do so.

“There’s a lot of gray area,” Reetz said. “We’re just trying to go with what we understand.”

Products with CBD have become increasingly available in recent years. Although CBD is not formally approved for medical use by the FDA, consumers seek it out for relief from a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from anxiety to chronic pain.

It turns out that Co-op staff may not have needed to pull the products from the shelves of the Co-op’s sole Vermont location in White River Junction. (The other three stores are in Hanover and Lebanon.) Vermont regulators say products containing CBD are not regulated by the state.

“CBD in the state of Vermont is not a controlled substance,” said Patrick Delaney, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery. It’s “beyond our purview.”

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, in fact, is supporting farmers to develop the hemp industry in the state.

It’s an “industry that is small and growing, and we don’t want to discourage it,” said Cary Giguere, director of public health, agricultural resource management at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Vermont has stood up to federal regulators in the past, such as by allowing the sale of raw milk, Giguere said.

The one thing Vermont regulators do pay attention to is the percentage of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, that is found in products with CBD, Delaney said.

If the department receives a complaint about a product, Delaney said it will test it to ensure it contains less than 0.3% THC. This can come up if the person who consumed a CBD product gets drug-tested by their employer and THC is detected.

Delaney said he would “encourage consumers to be aware of that” risk when choosing to consume CBD products.

There are “some hazards involved,” he said.

The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society isn’t alone in removing products from shelves or seeking more information about the legal issues at stake. Spurred by news reports of the New Hampshire crackdown, Un-Dun in West Lebanon also has pulled edible forms of CBD from its shelves, according to owner Christine Clarenbach.

CBD in tinctures, topical creams and vapable oils remain on Un-Dun’s shelves, but popular items such as gummies with CBD and melatonin have been removed, Clarenbach said.

“Until we get clarification of whether or not we can, it’s not worth getting in trouble,” said Clarenbach, who had not seen the Liquor Commission’s advisory.

Lauren Andrews, who owns the Montpelier-based AroMed, which currently operates stores in Montpelier and Berlin, Vt., and is in the process of opening a new store in Hanover, said she sells a range of CBD-containing products including edibles in her Vermont stores, but will comply with state laws in New Hampshire.

But she said she suspects demand from consumers will be such that New Hampshire lawmakers will reconsider, as has happened in states such as Maine.

“Once you give it to people, it’s very hard to take it away,” said Andrews, who plans to open her new storefront in the former Folk store space on Allen Street in mid-July.

In the meantime, affected businesses are trying to sort out how much new laws or interpretations of laws will impact their bottom lines.

Sarah Yetter is part-owner of the Woodstock-based Abracadabra Coffee Co., which manufactures a cold brew coffee in cans containing CBD. It was among the products the Co-op pulled from its shelves last week, and Yetter said it’s “too soon to tell” what impact this will have on her business.

The CBD cold brew, Chill Brew, is the best-selling of Abracadabra’s cold brew offerings, Yetter said. And a plan to move forward with a formal distributor in New Hampshire for the company’s cold brew cans is now on hold.

“If it seems like it’s something that people are doing at a retail level, then it will greatly affect us,” she said.

The company, which sells in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York in addition to the Twin States, also recently heard that there may be issues with CBD sales in Massachusetts.

“I’m hopeful that it’s going to be resolved soon,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

 Correction

The legal limit in Vermont for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in products containing cannabidiol, aka CBD, is 0.3%.  An earlier version of this story misstated the legal limit.




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