Jonathan Havens, a former legal counsel at the F.D.A. who now represents companies in the CBD industry, said many growers and manufacturers had grown frustrated with the F.D.A.’s inaction, which has contributed to a chaotic marketplace that has created confusion for consumers and financial uncertainty for businesses.
“The F.D.A. has never wanted to deal with this issue,” he said. “And although that’s regrettable, it would be less regrettable if we knew that in 2018 and Congress could have dealt with it, particularly at a time when Congress wasn’t so sharply divided and bills more regularly emerged from both houses and reached the president’s desk.”
Amid the regulatory vacuum, more than two dozen states have taken up CBD legislation, producing a patchwork of laws.
Members of Congress have long expressed impatience with the F.D.A. on CBD regulation. Last September, a bipartisan group of legislators sent a letter to the agency complaining about its lack of cooperation on proposed legislation aimed at resolving the matter.
On Thursday, several lawmakers who have worked on the issue expressed guarded optimism that Congress would be able to tackle the issue.
“I’m encouraged by the F.D.A.’s announcement today and looking forward to finding a path forward,” Representative Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota, said in a statement, echoing remarks from Representative Morgan Griffith, a Virginia Republican who previously joined Ms. Craig to sponsor CBD legislation in the House.
But other legislators struck a more combative tone. Representative James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky and the new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said he would use his committee position to investigate the F.D.A.’s decision to shift the matter to Congress.
“The F.D.A. failed for too long to take steps to ensure the safety of hemp-derived dietary products, putting the health and safety of the American people at risk,” he wrote. “We need to be sure that the F.D.A. is not using this as an opportunity simply to leverage more authority and resources from Congress.”