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Feds Clarify Use Of Hemp-Based Ingredients In Craft Beer

Black Hammer Brewing / Courtesy

Black Hammer Brewing is under federal orders to stop producing a beer infused with the hemp-derived extract known as CBD.

Black Hammer Brewing / Courtesy

A San Francisco brewery is under federal orders to stop producing a beer infused with the hemp-derived extract known as CBD, and the feds are working to clarify how breweries can legally navigate the growing world of cannabis-themed beers.

The Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, has a limited number of ingredients that are pre-approved for beer recipes such as barley, hops and yeast.

Black Hammer Brewing in San Francisco was adding Cannabidiol, or CBD, to some of its beer styles. If an ingredient is not on the list of pre-approved ingredients, as in the case of CBD, then the formula needs to be submitted for approval.

Tom Furman with Black Hammer Brewing says that they did not do that, and that the TTB “very helpfully reminded us that we were non-compliant, so we immediately ceased production to become complaint with the regulations."

Furman says the brewery will continue to sell what was already produced and will formally submit the current formulas for approval.

Jim Hogue, a spokesman for the TTB, says that a hemp-based ingredient needs testing to show that it does not contain a controlled substance, specifically tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive agent in cannabis. 

“If your product contains a controlled substance, we will not be issuing formula or label approval for it," says Hogue.

The TTB issued a clarification of its existing hemp policy this week to help experimental brewers.

Some hope the current version of the Senate Farm Bill in Congress will reclassify hemp to differentiate it from cannabis, which could open up the use of some of these ingredients down the road.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the spokesman for the TTB. He is Tom Hogue. A clarrification was also added for the testing and approval process.

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