Is the UK a CBD Safe Haven?
It was reported on the 15th July by Food Navigator that the European Commission has paused over 50 Novel Food Applications for Cannabidiol (CBD) products as they seek to determine whether they should be classified as Novel Foods or Narcotics.
A spokesperson reportedly stated, “We have doubts about CBD… for the moment the preliminary analysis says that it could not be qualified as food but it’s not a final decision.”
If considered a narcotic and not a food, this turn of events could plunge the European CBD market into a world of jeopardy and uncertainty.
Fortunately for those of us in the UK, we are no longer bound to the EU’s decision-making process.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reassured the ACI (Association for the Cannabinoid Industry) that they do not consider CBD products to be narcotics and will be formally accepting Novel Foods Applications from January 2021 (when the Brexit transition period is set to end).
Our co-founder Costas Hadjipateras commented “we are glad to see the FSA has stuck with the Novel Foods direction for CBD products in the UK. What this means for the industry is stability, allowing the UK to continue to be a global CBD Industry stronghold. It can be a safe haven for CBD companies, consumers and pioneers in cannabis research and development.”
Joshua Neilly, co-founder of Bloom Botanics said “The welcome security of the UK CBD industry is offering a lot of inward investment from abroad. By offering a more concrete and sure plan on how to push forward with this non psychoactive substance. Although it’s not the miracle some claim it to be. It has a continuously developing use and is deserving of future research.”
Let’s Take a Look at the Whole Story…
In January 2019, the EU reclassed all Cannabis Sativa L. derived products (i.e. anything containing CBD or any other cannabinoids) as a Novel Food. This meant that if the ingredient was to be used and sold, it required pre-market authorisation.
This faced a mixed bag of responses from the industry, with some arguing that the extraction from hemp may have been happening in the EU before 1997, making it impossible to class CBD as a Novel Food.
For a while, there was uncertainty as to what the implications would be for companies manufacturing and selling CBD products in Europe. In some countries, such as the UK and Germany, CBD has been allowed on shelves in major high street stores and pharmacies causing rapid growth in the industry. In other countries, such as Austria and Spain, the Novel Foods ruling has been rigorously enforced – products have been removed from shelves pending approval from the European Commission.
Here’s where things get interesting…
Earlier this year, the UK Food Standards Agency broke their silence on the issue and laid out its expectations for Novel Food Applications. The FSA set out a deadline – 31st March 2021 – for which all UK-sold CBD products would be required to have a validated Novel Food Application (NFA). If they didn’t, companies could risk their products being removed from shelves.
What Did This Mean for the Industry?
The process of applying for Novel Foods Approval is known to be costly and time-consuming (over 2 years). As reported in February by Food Manufacture, the Novel Foods ruling will be extremely difficult for local authorities to enforce due to it requiring a huge amount of resources. It is also likely to damage SME operators who currently make up the backbone of the industry, instead favouring big pharma companies with much greater budgets.
Many argue that vilifying smaller artisanal CBD companies, many of whom have been calling for more regulation for years, is certainly not the right direction to go in.
Others, however, rejoiced at the newly announced regulations, citing the shambles of the Centre For Medicinal Cannabis’s (CMC’s) 2019 study which found that over 60% of 30 randomly selected UK CBD products did not contain advertised levels of CBD, with some containing no CBD whatsoever.
Why Every CBD Company Needs to Get Into the UK.
Now that the European Commission has paused all of its Novel Food applications for CBD products, the EU has become a pretty risky place to be selling them. While no decision has been made yet, if the EC does classify CBD as a narcotic, it’s not going to be anytime soon that products will be legally available on the high street, or indeed, online.
This would be a disaster for many companies operating within Europe, causing dire financial implications to the continent’s CBD industry that is already facing a major crisis thanks to Covid-19.
While we all have our fingers crossed for EU CBD businesses, the future is not looking good. The implications of CBD being classed as a Narcotic by the European Commission (EC) are dire, and could spell the end for hundreds of companies.
It’s with this in mind that UK CBD projects are breathing a collective sigh of relief at being in the hands of the UK FSA, and not the European Commission.