Why Are Feds Going After CBD-Infused Beer?

California brewers are feeling the pain.

Why Are Feds Going After CBD-Infused Beer?
Photo via Flickr User Martin Garrido

Thanks to a loophole in the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp-derived cannabinoid products have exploded across the states and internet. Products you might not expect to include CBD have popped up on the market, such as CBD beer, which brewers like San Francisco’s Black Hammer Brewing have embraced.

Black Hammer first introduced CBD beer for 4/20 celebrations back in 2017. Since then, the company has unveiled eight different beers to include cannabinoids, and, as owner Jim Furman told the San Francisco Chronicle, their line of CBD beers has been their most popular.

But production of CBD beers has temporarily ceased. Why? Because Black Hammer received an order to stop production from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. You might be asking yourself, Isn’t cannabis fully legal in California? It is. Does this have to do with federal cannabis laws? Not at all.

The bureau requires specific approval for any non-standard ingredients used in beer production. What does and doesn’t qualify as non-standard can be tricky. Cannabinoids and terpenes might seem obvious choices for non-standard ingredients, but passionfruit and rosewater are more likely to need special approval, writes the Chronicle. Here’s the thing: CBD, hemp, and terpenes aren’t even on the list for non-standard ingredients.

Black Hammer’s case echoes that of South Florida brewers around 4/20 this year. Brewers like Invasive Species Brewing and Devour Brewing had similarly stumbled upon the flavor innovation terpenes deliver to beer flavor profiles, with one brewer calling it “the fifth Beatle.” They had to cancel major 4/20 events after TTB officials sent the brewers cease-and-desist letters.

Furman wasn’t even considering he might need formula approval for his CBD beers. He was more concerned with CBD’s legality, which oddly isn’t the problem. Furman says Black Hammer will comply and has since stopped production on their CBD beers. They’ve already started applying for TTB approval, but with Congress unable to re-classify hemp as an agricultural product instead of a controlled substance, the outlook isn’t looking good.

“Our guests love the CBD beers, and we’re pretty sad that we have to stop producing them,” Furman told the Chronicle.

Like what you see? Subscribe to our Editor's Choice Newsletter and get the best of The Fresh Toast, chosen by our Editor-In-Chief, delivered right to your inbox!
  • Privacy

    The Fresh Toast collects and stores submitted private information in accordance with our User Agreement.