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CannaPro racks up £30,000 in legal fees fighting FSA novel food regulations

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CannaPro has spent thousands seeking legal advice on the novel food regulations.

The trade association for cannabis companies in the UK says it has spent more seeking legal advice around the novel food regulations than its entire income history.

CannaPro revealed in October that it was taking legal advice in an effort to stand up to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) “pointless” regulations.

Three months on, the trade association continues to report difficulties raising its concerns with the FSA and now reports it has spent almost £30,000 seeking legal advice.

The agency announced in Autumn 2020 that Novel Food applications must include toxicology safety data, costing companies hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce and potentially putting smaller companies out of business.

Speaking to Cannabis Health, Peter Reynolds of CannaPro says he has made dozens of requests to the FSA to address the sector’s issues with the Novel Food applications.

“I’ve been in constant correspondence with the FSA about what they’re up to, but the evasiveness they engage in is just disgraceful,” Reynolds says.

Although the hemp plant, from which CBD is extracted, is not deemed to be a novel food supplement, ‘selective’ extracts of the plant are categorised as ‘novel’. In these extracts, the proportion of components in the end product are adjusted from the original proportions found in the plant.

Reynolds asserts that CannaPro “accepts this”, however he believes it is unfair to treat non-selective extracts

in the same fashion.

Reynolds says: “If you have a non-selective extract, it is molecularly identical to the hemp plant. So, if the hemp isn’t novel, how can the extract be? It can’t be.

“The FSA makes it very clear in its statements that selective extracts are novel. What I’ve been seeking from the FSA for months now is a clear statement that non-selective extracts are not novel. They simply evade the question.

“What the FSA keeps saying is, ‘we’ve already stated clearly that cold pressed extracts are not novel because they are non-selective’.

“That’s correct, but there are other methods of achieving non-selective extracts and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be classified as ‘not novel’.”

Citing the lack of evidence for CBD causing significant harm, Reynolds describes the Novel Foods applications as “completely pointless”, accusing the FSA of “persecuting people in the industry” and creating a false sense of distrust surrounding CBD.

“The FSA has completely contrived the idea of toxicity with the Committee on Toxicity Report,” Reynolds adds. “I’m not saying it’s been made up, but it’s been marshalled and organised to try and create this sense of fear for which there’s no justification at all.

“The evidence is all based on dosages which are between 100 and 10,000 times the 200 milligramme per day limits that we, the industry, have been recommending since 2016.”

Reynolds also points to the fact that a significant portion of the data which the Committee on Toxicity Report is based on comes from GW Pharmaceuticals’ clinical trial of Epidiolex – the only approved CBD medicine on the market.

“Ninety percent of the data comes from GW Pharmaceuticals, which has a vested interest in restricting other companies trading in CBD,” Reynolds says.

Despite his issues with the FSA’s treatment of the CBD industry, Reynolds agrees that the supplement does require better regulation, such as ensuring CBD levels claimed on product labels are accurate and guaranteeing products are free of heavy metals and contaminants.

Company’s producing whole-extract CBD products are likely to face a difficult situation when the deadline for Novel Food applications arrives on the 31 March, however Reynolds believes the sub-sector will not disappear.

“All the multiple-extract products [CBD containing multiple cannabis plant extracts] are going to be comprehensively shut out by this because they’re going to have to evade the FSA,” Reynolds says.

“The market for whole plant extracts is going to be online or through small retailers, it’s not going away.”

“The environmental health and trading standards departments at local councils haven’t got a hope in hell of being able to enforce the FSA’s wishes because they don’t have the resources.”

He adds: “Having said that, I’m sure there will be some people of whom examples will be made and there will be people who suffer as a result of this.”

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