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Organic Brands Need to be Prepared for a Massive Emerging Trend

CBD is set to become an ubiquitous ingredient.

The question that organic food companies may want to be asking themselves is: are we ready?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is poised to hit the organic market in a very serious way, and brands do not want to be left behind. It is expected to become a $2.1 billion market by 2020.

Here are the two primary reasons why CBD will have a dramatic impact on the organic industry.

First, while the research is still in the early stages, it is believed that CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of the hemp plant, could have incredible health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, treating diabetes, and helping with neurodegenerative disorders.

Second, the regulatory and legal roadblocks have either been removed or are on track to be removed.

Hemp and cannabis are both cannabis sativa plants, but hemp contains trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component) while cannabis contains high levels of THC. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 grouped all cannabis species, including hemp, as a Schedule I drug and banned them.

It was widely believed that since cannabis is classified as a federally controlled substance and the federal also government regulates the term “organic”, CBD could not become USDA certified organic. Therefore, the organic industry did not have to pay much attention to this ingredient.

While this may have been true in the past, it is no longer the case.

Barlean’s will soon be unveiling a USDA certified organic CBD oil. This product has received organic certification from QAI. Additionally, Green Gorilla has released a USDA certified organic hemp and olive CBD oil.

A search of the USDA Organic Integrity Database shows that EcoCert has granted certification to two operations, Colorado Cultivars USA and Hammer Enterprises, for CBD products as well.

With QAI and EcoCert already certifying CBD, the next roadblock is the legal issue.

The Senate’s version of the 2018 farm bill contains language which would not only legalize industrial hemp farming but would legalize derivative products, including CBD. The combined bill will be sent to the conference committee, and this language has already been incorporated.

In the farm bill, H.R.2 – Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Section 297.A says:

“(1) HEMP.—The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

The Senate and House must now merge these different bills, and it is expected that a final bill should reach President Trump’s desk by September 30th, the date when current farm programs expire. So, there will be a great deal of pressure on politicians to get it done before then.

One big question is whether this hemp farming language will survive the merging of the two bills. At this moment, there is no reason to believe that it will not, especially when you take a close look at which politicians are pushing for this piece of legislation.

The biggest advocate for the lifting of restrictions on industrial hemp farming, which is illegal without a permit because of the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, has been Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), arguably the most influential member of Congress. Senator McConnell is highly motivated to pass this piece of legislation because his home state is one of the largest growers of hemp in the country.

“I have never seen a politician so pro-hemp. If you would have told me five years ago the things that he would do, I never would have believed it,” said John Roulac, Founder of Nutiva and someone who has been on the front lines of fighting for legal hemp farming in the U.S. for decades.


Assuming we see a rapid surge in the demand for organic hemp CBD oil, this will have a very positive impact on the organic industry as a whole, as the need for organic hemp will grow quickly.

Aside from CBD, hemp can also be used for other purposes, such as in medicine or textiles, and the full legalization should benefit these categories as well.

One company that has been keeping a close eye on this hemp legislation in Congress is Patagonia.

“Hemp is a core fiber in our materials portfolio and has been a longstanding staple in key sportswear pieces for men’s, women’s and our kids’ line. There is a learning curve on what hemp varietals will grow best in different regions for fiber, and there is a lack of scaled infrastructure to process hemp fiber for textiles. But if hemp is legalized, there is definitely an increased opportunity to source domestic hemp for our line. We would always work to source hemp with the lowest possible impact, whether it is certified organic or eventually regenerative. Patagonia will continue to increase the amount of hemp we are using,” said Sarah Hayes, Director of Material Development at Patagonia.

Along with a much greater number of hemp-based products in the marketplace, the environment should see a real benefit as well.

Rodale Institute’s Industrial Hemp Research Project, which received $100,00 in funding from Dr. Bronner’s and contributions from Nutiva and others, is in the midst of a 4-year pilot program to demonstrate the crop’s benefits. Hemp could serve as a very effective cover crop because it could improve soil health and suppress weeds. Furthermore, it is a cash crop. This means that farmers could generate revenue from growing hemp, which would incentivize them to start planting it.


For organic companies, the key part of this whole story is to start getting prepared.

First, that means figuring out how CBD is going to fit into the product pipeline, and it’s important not to underestimate where CBD will show up in products. While beverages and chocolate may have been popular places to use CBD up to this point, people should expect it to see it everywhere.

For example, Earthshine Organics is now selling Jay’s CBD potato chips and Weetos CBD Honey & Oats Breakfast Cereal


The second part of the equation is working out the supply chain logistics — where and how to source organic CBD and in which form. We should expect organic CBD powder to arrive soon as well.

Lastly, companies need to get comfortable with the legal situation.

As of now, the 2014 farm bill allows industrial hemp to be grown for research purposes with regulation done on the state level. Non-psychoactive derivative products, such as CBD from approved farms in these states, can be sold in retail. However, enforcement agencies are not always clear about the law.

Case in point is what happened to Nikki Ostrower at NAO Wellness in NYC.

Despite the fact that she was following the law and selling non-psychoactive CBD, she almost lost everything in an undercover New York Police Department sting operation, where she faced a felony distribution charge of cannabis. Fortunately, the matter got resolved but it cost her dearly, from both a financial and emotional standpoint.

Even if hemp farming does become legal on the federal level, whether there will be blanket approval at retail outlets in all 50 states is a real question mark.

According to Lauren Rudick, a NYC-based attorney at Hiller, PC and Co-Founder of her firm’s cannabis law practice, “You have to understand each state’s position on CBD, and not every state has the same carve-out. States are still free to regulate this product, even if it becomes legal on the federal level.”

While the legal uncertainties may be somewhat ambiguous in the near-term, make no mistake about it. CBD will be an enormous ingredient in the organic industry.

“Get in early and get your strategy down because a lot of competitors are coming. CBD is a revolutionary nutraceutical and is much more than just a fly-by-night molecule” advises Erik Knutson, President of The American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp, and CEO of Keefbrands.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course

How Trump's Deregulation Policy Could Damage Organic

By Andrew Martin and Shruti Singh

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and his agency are pulling back rules that the organic industry wants. As a result, this could erode consumer confidence in the organic seal.

The Cornucopia Institute

Cornucopia Files Request with the U.S. Department of Justice over Hain's Divestiture

The Cornucopia Institute sent a formal request to antitrust regulators asking them to scrutinize the sale of Hain Celestial's organic/natural poultry division, claiming that, depending on who acquires it, the effect could harm competition in the already highly concentrated organic poultry sector.


Judge Rules 400 Cancer Lawsuits Against Monsanto Can Move Forward

By Olivia Rosane

In a very important ruling, a judge decided that 400 lawsuits which claim that glyphosate - the primary ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup - caused cancer can now go to trial.


More Issues of Organic Fraud -- But This Time from Costa Rica

By Richard Read

With the industry dealing with major issues of fraud with organic grains from Turkey, we are now hit with allegations that pineapples from Costa Rica may not be legitimate either, with an estimated loss of $6M.

Second Course
A Fresh Look

Organic Produce Distributor Sells Itself to a Sustainability Trust

By Elise Herron

Organically Grown Co., the largest organic produce distributor in the Northwest, has sold itself to a sustainability trust, with profits going to its farmers and workers.

Arab News

Saudi Arabia Unveils a $200M Organic Farming Plan

With a goal of increasing organic production by 300%, the Saudi government has committed $200M to scale its organic farming sector.

World Grain

Slovakia is Turning Away from GMO Crops

By Eric Schroeder

In a very positive development, Slovakia has no GE-crops under development in the country, largely due to the protests of NGOs and the influence of neighboring countries.


Ireland Votes to Maintain 'GMO-Free' Status

By Trish Hayes

In a pushback against EU policy, Ireland has voted to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of GMOs in Ireland.

Third Course
USA Today

Produce is Much Less Nutritious Than it Was 70 Years Ago

By Carrie Blackmore Smith and Emily Hopkins

With nutrient levels way down in our fruits and vegetables -- because of soil degradation -- here is a look at how some farmers are trying to change that.


Whole Foods to Offer Free Money and Cheerios in Prime Day Deals

By Tim Forster

Next week at Whole Foods, Prime Members will receive $10 in free money (store credit) when they spend $10, a free box of Cheerios when they buy one, and many other discounts during the 36-hour Prime Day, beginning on July 16th.

Food Dive

Organic Valley is Demonstrating its Marketing Innovation Once Again

By Erica Sweeney

Arguably the most creative marketer in the organic industry, Organic Valley is repurposing influencer videos to promote its ghee.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Center for Food Safety (CFS) has sued the Trump administration over unlawfully keeping GMO-labeling documents secret. Earlier this year, CFS sought the public data and documents about the rulemaking process under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the administration failed to make public any information, leading to this CFS lawsuit to force that disclosure.

* The Organic Center has published a report called “Organic Food and Farming as a Tool to Combat Antibiotic Resistance and Protect Public Health.” This research reviews almost 100 studies, and the conclusions demonstrate that the best choice consumers can make to combat antibiotic resistance bacteria is to choose organic.

* On Living Maxwell, here are My Top 5 Organic Products from Fancy Food Show 2018. I also put up an article on how to protect yourself from mold in your home.

* Neonicotinoid pesticides have not only plagued the bee population, but they have now been found in wild turkeys.

* An interesting profile of Querciabella, an organic and Biodynamic vegan winery in Italy.

* Costco is adding organic burgers and acai bowls to its food court.

* Chef Tien Ho, Vice President of Culinary & Hospitality at Whole Foods and someone that I profiled a few years ago, has left the company.

* The International Mango and Tropical Fruit Festival is taking place in Miami on Saturday. It looks amazing! 

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