Why this matters
This is the first time the FDA has hired a cannabis research and regulation advisor. The agency continues to struggle with regulations on marijuana-based products, including those containing only CBD.
Despite passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that descheduled hemp and gave the FDA authority to oversee hemp-derived products, the agency has been searching for additional safety data ever since which is why it has prohibited CBD in foods and dietary supplements.
The appointment of Birenbaum, former New York State cannabis program director, signals more FDA action and involvement in cannabis matters.
In May, the agency announced that Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock would chair the agency’s Cannabis Products Council, which oversees marijuana product policy, enforcement, and outreach.
Who is Birenbaum?
FDA deputy director for Regulatory Programs, Dr. Douglas Throckmorton says that Birenbaum will bring extensive experience in policy analysis and legislative outreach to the center, thus helping it establish partnerships.
Under Birenbaum’s guidance, the FDA is expected to expand its relationship with the health care community as well as patients and patient advocacy groups.
Birenbaum previously served on the staff of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and was a chief cannabis policy advisor to governors of New York and Rhode Island leading the marijuana regulation agencies in both states.
Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) hired Birenbaum as the state’s director of cannabis programs two years ago. During his tenure, Birenbaum helped the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) in 2021, which legalized cannabis.
Before joining the Cuomo administration, Birenbaum created the Rhode Island Office of Cannabis regulation, managing the state’s medical marijuana and industrial hemp programs, while helping former Gov. Gina Raimondo’sefforts to legalize recreational cannabis.
Birenbaum is the founding president of the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), whose members stand for the top marijuana regulatory agencies from 43 states and U.S. territories, Throckmorton wrote.
“We’re pleased that the Biden administration has signaled its growing interest in good-faith engagement on cannabis issues by creating a new adviser position within the FDA dedicated to cannabis research and regulation,”US Cannabis Council (USCC) CEO, Khadijah Tribblestated.
“Mr. Birenbaum’s vast experience managing multiple states’ medical cannabis efforts will surely inform how he approaches the challenges and opportunities ahead for our growing industry. The USCC is ready and eager to work with Mr. Birenbaum on all aspects of cannabis reform.”