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Brexit means UK novel food laws no longer apply to Northern Ireland

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CBD companies in Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU law
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Novel food regulations coming into force this year do not apply to Northern Ireland, where CBD companies will have to continue to follow EU law. 

With just weeks to go until the deadline for novel food applications in the UK, CBD firms in Northern Ireland have been dealt a “significant blow” as it becomes clear they no longer fall under Food Standards Authority (FSA) regulations, following Brexit. 

Believed to have gone unnoticed by many in the industry, the FSA website now includes a note stating that EU law continues to apply to Northern Ireland after the Brexit transition period, as set out in the “Northern Ireland Protocol”.

This means any company seeking authorisation for a CBD product to be placed on the market will have to follow EU rules.

London-based cannabis consultancy firm, The Canna Consultants, who highlighted the position on its website on Wednesday 13 January, described it as a “shock” and “significant body-blow” to businesses in Northern Ireland.

With the UK deadline for novel food applications looming on 31 March, 2021 it is likely that many companies will have already invested in the application process, believing they could remain on the market after this date.

Instead, their products will now be deemed unlawful, until fully authorised by the European Commission (EC) along with the rest of the EU. 

Speaking to Cannabis Health, Stephen Oliver, co-founder of The Canna Consultants, said: “Imagine being a Northern Ireland CBD company, which has invested considerable time and money into the compilation of a Novel food dossier having acted upon the FSA announcement of February 2020, in the belief that by achieving validation by the 31 March this year they could remain on the market. 

“Now they find that they cannot and are bound, despite being within the UK, by the Commission’s stance that no CBD products can be sold until after authorisation – that could be years.

“The Regulator may say that the products were on the market unlawfully anyway but by creating the amnesty, encouraged people to make commercial decisions who may have chosen to leave the industry or invest towards compliance.”

The protocol could also have a much wider impact on CBD brands elsewhere in the UK, which it is thought, will no longer be able to sell their validated products in Northern Ireland after March 2021.

Oliver continued: “Other issues concern Northern Irish sellers of UK validated CBD products after March 31 – one assumes they will no longer be able to, unless a further provision is made.

“Can a UK company sell in the UK when validated? Yes, but we now see that this will not apply to the whole of the UK in respect of Ireland.”

He added: “Clearly Scotland has its own regulator, but this is not a matter of different regulators setting different paths, rather a direct consequence of our departure from the EU.”

The European CBD industry has been shrouded in uncertainty following a preliminary conclusion issued by the EC last year suggesting CBD should be classified as a narcotic drug rather than a novel food.

It is hoped a European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling in November that CBD could not be considered a narcotic, will result in a removal of the ban on the advancement of novel food assessments. 

Full guidance on novel food regulations from the FSA can be found here

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health.Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained.She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa.Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@handwmedia.co.uk / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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