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Industry urged not to panic over Home Office stance on CBD

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Reports last week suggested that laws around bulk importing CBD could soon change

CBD companies have been urged not to panic as the Home Office insists its position on the cannabinoid has not changed. 

Several business owners expressed concern to Cannabis Health last week, following reports that all those importing bulk isolates or distillates, would need to apply for a Schedule One Controlled Drug Licence from the UK Home Office.

It came following a letter from Justice Minister Kit Malthouse to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) calling for further clarity on the legal levels of THC permitted in CBD products. 

The move was described as another ‘hurdle’ facing UK companies, just weeks away from the novel food application deadline, with some fearing the licence requirement would force them out of the industry. 

However, Robert Jappie, a cannabis lawyer and partner at Ince, told Cannabis Health that he does not believe companies have any reason to panic at this stage. 

Mr Jappie welcomed the letter from the Justice Minister as a “positive” move towards much-needed clarity around the 1mg THC rule.

“The 1mg rule needs addressing to bring clarity to the industry,” he said. 

“I generally considered the Malthouse letter to be quite positive, although its emergence was certainly a surprise.”

The letter, sent on 11 January, states that the Government wishes to “explore the possibility” of creating a specific exemption in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 for CBD products which contain “no more than a defined trace percentage of controlled cannabinoids.”

It proposes that the defined trace THC percentage in CBD products should be set at a level between 0.01 percent and 0.0001 percent by “weight per controlled cannabinoid”.

If the ACMD opts for the trace amount to be set at 0.01 percent, the legally permitted levels would actually increase, with a 50ml bottle containing 5mg of THC.

But the latter could have huge implications for companies selling full and broad-spectrum products, making it virtually impossible to remove all trace levels of THC to a legal amount. 

Malthouse adds that the precise level will be determined “following further scientific testing advice” and the Government currently has “no plans to look at the status of CBD itself under drug legislation”.

But understandably, the uncertainty around THC levels has caused concern in the industry.

Paul Shrive, founder of Leafline CBD, said a controlled drug licence – which can equate to tens of thousands, including the required documents for importing, handling and shipping products – was not feasible for smaller companies. 

“If it was feasible there is no denying that I would be in control of the whole process from seed to shelf as this is my craft and my passion, he said.

“But unless you are a big pharmaceutical business with a lot of money behind you, there are too many hurdles to get past. It’s almost impossible to get through it all and it seems like a system designed to make you fail.”

Shrive added: “Granted, if we were talking about cannabis based prescribed medication then of course, there are strict measures that need to be adhered to, but this is hemp, a plant which we have been working with since the dark ages and causes absolutely no harm to anyone, only good.”

However, according to Jappie, there is as of yet, no indication that CBD companies need to apply for the Schedule One licence.

“Given that companies have been encouraged to engage in the novel food process, it seems unlikely that the Home Office would suddenly impose licence requirements too,” he continued.

“I don’t think companies should panic about this. Novel Food sets a high benchmark for quality and safety standards in the UK. CBD has been placed into that regime and that should be sufficient to ensure that consumers are protected.”

In a statement to Cannabis Health, the Home Office confirmed its stance on CBD had not changed and it hoped the advice from the ACMD would “strengthen the law” and allow companies to create “safe and legitimate” CBD products more easily.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The legislation, and the Home Office’s position on CBD, has not changed. CBD, as an isolated substance, in its pure form, is not a controlled drug. 

“However if a produce contains THC or other controlled cannabinoids, then it is highly likely this product would be controlled.”

“We have asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to provide advice on how we can strengthen the law on consumer CBD products. We hope this advice will allow us to make sure the law is clear and that these products are safe for consumers so those who seek to create legitimate, safe CBD consumer products, are able to do so more easily.”

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Cannabliss to open brick and mortar dispensary

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Michael Dobson - Cannabliss founder

UK-based medical cannabis group, Cannabliss aims to help patients transition from the illicit market into the legal cannabis space.

Following a long, “drawn-out” application process, Cannabliss has secured a pharmacy licence for dispensing medical cannabis through its online platform.

Now, after handing out its first private prescription this month, the company has announced it will be opening a brick and mortar site in Preston in April 2021.

Set to open on 12 April, the store will sell legal, over-the-counter cannabis-based products and also offer advice and guidance to people who are seeking to secure a medical cannabis prescription.

Cannabliss was founded by Michael Dobson, who was involved in a legal battle for several years over the legality of cultivating cannabis plants. In a saga that climaxed with him taking the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to court, he fought for a judicial review of cannabis legislation.

Having spent many years involved with the illicit cannabis market, including a period behind bars for growing several of his own plants, Dobson is now on a mission to widen access to legal medical cannabis.

“The vast majority of people have very little understanding of the legal cannabis market,” he tells Cannabis Health.

“What we’re doing is effectively creating a concierge service in which we help guide [people] through the process of becoming a legalised cannabis patient.”

Cannabliss says it aims to build trust with its customers and establish itself as a “go-to” place for trusted information about the medical cannabis landscape.

Dobson explains: “Customers have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with somebody who specialises in this particular area, rather than it just being a vape shop or health food store that has added cannabis products to its already existing range.

“If we do have somebody coming in and asking about the process of getting access to medical cannabis, we can explain that to them.”

Currently, in the UK, there are qualifying conditions that must be met before being considered for cannabis-based treatment.

Although an estimated 1.4 million people consume cannabis for medicinal purposes, very few can access it via a prescription.

Dobson believes that there is a “great deal” of people that could meet the criteria for a medical cannabis prescription but have never considered it due to the cost and exclusivity of private healthcare.

He says Cannabliss will provide support to its customers if they choose to go through the official process.

“Even though the prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, we still think there’s going to be a hurdle to overcome in terms of breaking down that barrier; that stigma that is there for a lot of people,” he says.

The company is already putting plans in motion to expand into a franchise with two provisional stores set to open this summer in Leicester and Essex.

As part of this franchising effort, Cannabliss aims to provide opportunities for people who may have previously been involved with the illicit cannabis market.

Dobson believes that it is “morally right” to give people the chance to enter the burgeoning legal market.

“I always wanted to include as many people as possible within what we’re doing, and support people that have been in a similar position to myself,” Dobson adds.

“We will not discriminate on somebody because they maybe have a criminal history like myself.

“In actual fact, these people are actually the best people to have running our franchises because they’re so knowledgeable.”

Dobson also believes that this approach could help reduce the influence and scale of the illegal market.

“By removing people from the illegal market and bringing them into the legal market, you’re getting rid of the black market rather than putting something in place that’s in competition with it,” he says.

Looking ahead, Dobson says the company is feeling “very positive”. It has formed partnerships with suppliers in the UK and Europe, including a distribution agreement with Canopy Growth Corporation subsidiary, Storz and Bickel, for its range of medical-grade vaporisers.

“It’s going very well and we’re anticipating a lot of interest,” Dobson adds.

“Feedback that I’m getting from different people [in the sector] is that a lot of people are interested in what we’re doing, how we’ve got to where we’ve got to and, in particular, my backstory and how that fed into the whole ethos of what we’re trying to do.

“I feel very strongly that the UK is going to become a world leader in the legalised cannabis space over the next few years and I’m looking forward to playing my own small part in that.”

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Twitter’s Katie Ford joins Fyllo to focus on cannabis sector

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Katie Ford - former head of global brands for Twitter

Tech and media leaders are shunning social media giants to bring their expertise to the cannabis industry.

Twitter’s former head of global brands, Katie Ford has announced she is joining cannabis marketing company Fyllo as chief operating officer.

Fyllo is working with major cannabis companies to enable them to advertise to mainstream consumers.

Ford was previously at Twitter where she served for the past two years as head of global brands and is one of the biggest names in digital media, with a career built at Fortune 100 media & technology companies at the intersection of data, marketing, and creativity. 

She spent two plus decades at Publicis Media, rising to the rank of president where she was the Executive lead on P&G, Coca-Cola, USAA, and Kellogg’s accounts.

During her time at Publicis she was recognized by Ad Age as one of the “Women to Watch,” and by Campaign US, as a leading “Media Maven.” 

From there she joined Amobee’s executive team as chief client officer, where she was integral in delivering two successful acquisitions within 18 months, along with achieving positive EBITDA with over $1billion in annual revenue. 

The Fyllo Compliance Cloud is a suite of software and services built to overcome the complexities of highly regulated industries.

With 2021 shaping up to be a transformational year for cannabis, Fyllo now allows cannabis brands to market themselves at a scale that has never been possible for companies that operate in highly regulated industries.

Mainstream brands also seek out Fyllo’s Data Marketplace to target previously inaccessible cannabis and CBD consumers.

Ford was the first person to be appointed to Fyllo’s board of directors, a role she’s held since 2019.

“Katie has been an incredible partner since day one, always believing in the company and its mission,” said Chad Bronstein, founder and CEO of Fyllo.

“She was the first person to join our Board and has been instrumental in Fyllo’s creation, growth and development.”

Ford added: “Fyllo has built incredible products and proven their business model in a very short period of time.

“I look forward to being part of Fyllo’s success as we build breakthrough solutions for companies in highly regulated industries like cannabis, pharma, and alcohol.”

As COO, Ford will depart Fyllo’s board of directors to assume her new executive position.

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Kanabo brings its unique VapePod to UK patients

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The VapePod can administer a measured dose of cannabis extract

Following its listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) cannabis company Kanabo is set to make its unique vaporiser available to UK patients. 

A week after it became the second company to list on the LSE, Israeli firm Kanabo, has announced it will supply its medical-grade inhalation device, VapePod and a line of medicinal cannabis formulations in pods for the UK market. 

The company has signed its first distribution agreement with the UK’s biggest cannabis clinic provider, LYPHE Group, which is part of Drug Science’s Project Twenty21. 

Through this new agreement, Kanabo’s VapePod medicinal cannabis formula, will be made available to Project Twenty21 patients under LYPHE Group’s brand NOIDECS.

Kanabo seeks to provide an alternative solution to the smoking of medicinal cannabis flowers.

The VapePod will be the first product of its kind, a medical-grade handheld vaporiser with controlled metered dosage, made available to UK cannabis patients with a medical prescription. 

It can administer an accurate, measured dose of cannabis extract, which the company hopes will improve patient access and boost trust amongst medical professionals.

The initial formula, which Astral Health will distribute under the name NOIDECS 400T, is based on the Israeli medical cannabis pharmacopoeia as a recommended ratio for pain management. 

Kanabo and Astral Health will work closely to make the products available to patients over the coming months.

Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s CEO commented: “We believe this new product will be revolutionary for medical cannabis patients who need immediate relief of pain, and will replace the smoking of cannabis flowers as a medical delivery method, which is one of Kanabo’s main targets.”

Kanabo founder, Avihu Tamir

Project Twenty21 provides eligible patients with affordable medical cannabis treatment, monitored by Drug Science and aims to create the UK’s largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis.

LYPHE Group announced its partnership with Project Twenty21 in December to bring a range of EU-GMP and equivalent GMP medicines to the UK.

LYPHE Group, which has more than 60 percent of the British patient market, recently entered into a supply partnership with Canadian manufacturer, Northern Green to bring a range of indoor grown flower-based products to the market.

Dean Friday, LYPHE’s CEO added: “We have seen the headlines, and we have witnessed the negative impact of opioids. Pain is not going to go away, so a more natural and caring approach to treating it must find centre stage. Thanks to our partnership with Kanabo we now have a metered dose NOIDECS product that can treat patients across the U.K. that suffer from chronic pain.”

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