FDA Officials Confiscated CBD Edibles, Yuma Shop Owner Says

In December, the FDA promised to "closely scrutinize" hemp products that "could pose risks to consumers."
In December, the FDA promised to "closely scrutinize" hemp products that "could pose risks to consumers." Full Spectrum University/Flickr
At 9:03 a.m. on Thursday, officials from the Food and Drug Administration confiscated edible CBD products from the shelves of a smoke shop in Yuma, the owner of the shop said.

"They came in this morning and they took eight chocolate bars, 14 packs of gummies, and 23 K-cups," said David Murray, who owns Neverlow Glass Gallery.

They left no records, no warrant, just said they were FDA and flashed flip ID badges.

"It wasn't much," Murray said. "They said they were going to send me paperwork within seven to 10 business days or I was going to get my product back."

The three FDA officials were accompanied by "another enforcement unit," Murray said, although he could not recall from what agency.

Four days earlier, FDA officials had stopped in the shop, asking what was edible and for humans, Murray recalled. So he told them about the coffee, the gummies, and the chocolate, not expecting them to return.

When they did, they told him that CBD wasn't for human consumption, Murray said. They also told him that the edibles had to be labeled "as a pet product," he said, along with the words, "if consumed by a human, there’s no concern.” That last statement he found shocking, he said with a chuckle.

Murray said the FDA officials did not say that the edibles had to be labeled "not for human consumption." They did, however, say that "they're making their own regulations for [hemp]."

“They didn’t really clarify anything for me," he added.

Murray said the confiscated coffee and chocolates were produced by Hempful Farms. The gummies were from the companies CBD Living Water and Relax.

Chris Martin, who runs Hempful Farms, said he had not heard of confiscations at other shops where Hempful Farm sells products. Neverlow was the only one he knew of — for now.

But at his own store in Phoenix on Thursday, three men — "jarhead-looking guys, straight outta military," Martin said — came in and asked weird questions, like, "You take this and put this in your mouth?” It was as if they were baiting his employees to say that products were edibles, so they could seize it or come back later, Martin said. The men had refused to say where they were from.

click to enlarge CBD K-cups from Hempful Farms. - COURTESY OF HEMPFUL FARMS
CBD K-cups from Hempful Farms.
Courtesy of Hempful Farms
"Patients don’t do that. People who are just looking for help don’t do that stuff," he added.

Last week, Paw Puddy, the pet division of Hempful Farms, received a letter from federal criminal investigators.

"An item placed into the U.S. Postal Service mail stream is currently being withheld from delivery as there are reasonable grounds to believe its contents are nonmailable as proscribed in U.S. Postal Publication Service 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable mail," the letter said.

On December 20, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law, removing hemp — the source of CBD — from the list of federally controlled substances. But that doesn't mean federal agencies can't regulate them in other ways.

That same day, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued a statement noting that even though hemp was no longer illegal under federal law, Congress had preserved the FDA's authority to regulate products with cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.

"The FDA will advance new steps to better define our public health obligations in this area," the statement read. "We’ll also continue to closely scrutinize products that could pose risks to consumers."

The statement cited concerns about claims that hemp products had therapeutic benefits. Cannabis-derived products that claimed to cure, treat, or prevent diseases "must go through the FDA drug approval process for human or animal use before they are marketed in the U.S," it added.

The FDA, which has been affected by the federal shutdown like other agencies, didn't return repeated messages.

What's next for the Yuma shop is unclear. Murray is waiting for the FDA to send the papers they promised, or return his product — not that he can't keep selling these products anyway, because oddly, the FDA agents didn't take Neverlow's back stock of CBD edibles.

"I have more chocolate bars, I have more K-cups, I have more gummies," Murray said. "But they only took what was on my shelf. That’s what confuses me about this whole thing ...They should’ve taken everything.”

(UPDATE: The FDA later emailed the following reply: "The FDA, by policy, does not discuss possible or ongoing investigations; however, if an investigation were performed and the case is deemed closed, the information will be releasable via a written Freedom of Information Act request for records...")
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.