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DOJ clarifies position, allows manufacture and sale of CBD oil

The Department of Justice had advised law enforcement agencies and the public that a medicinal oil derived from hemp is still illegal without a prescription, but changed its position after meeting with farm lobbyists.

Farmers growing industrial hemp under a statewide pilot program will not be prosecuted for producing CBD oil, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced Thursday, rolling back its previous stance that the substance is still banned.

Attorney General Brad Schimel made the announcement on cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, following a meeting with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and state lawmakers.

Hundreds of farmers have applied for new state licenses that would allow them to grow industrial hemp. Many hope to produce and sell CBD oil, which can be used to treat seizures. But DOJ issued a memo last month reaffirming that only doctors and pharmacies can distribute the oil in limited circumstances and people can possess it only with a doctor’s certification.

Last week, Schimel issued a statement saying “law enforcement has encountered examples of products claiming to be CBD oil that resulted in people getting hurt and sick. We have an obligation to protect public health and safety, and need to provide frontline law enforcement with the knowledge to enforce the law as it is written by the Wisconsin State Legislature and United States Congress.”

But on Thursday, Schimel said state laws relating to industrial hemp could be affected by the 2018 Farm Bill currently before Congress. Until the state Legislature is enabled by Congress to clarify laws relating to hemp, law enforcement is instructed not to take action against hemp products made by one of the state’s certified hemp growers, Schimel said.

Stores are also permitted to sell CBD oil produced in compliance with DATCP regulations, the department said.

“CBD is helpful for certain Wisconsinites, and the Legislature has made a policy decision to allow those individuals to have access to CBD,” Schimel said in a statement. “But we should make sure that our consumers are getting what they expect.”

Legal action will still be taken against producers and retailers who are not in compliance with and authorized by DATCP, the department said.

The department cited warnings issued to businesses that manufacture products with CBD oil by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Those businesses list a higher level of CBD oil on the products’ labels than is found in the product.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.