Representatives of the UK CBD industry are urging the Home Office to protect the sector, and reassure millions of consumers, with greater clarity and stricter regulation.
A new campaign, led by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), is calling on the Home Office to implement a legal framework to cover the sale of CBD products, something which it committed to doing in January 2021.
CBD products have now been sold online and in major high street retailers for over 10 years, despite the lack of formal regulation. In recent years they have become popular for their potential health and wellness benefits, with around 18 million adults estimated to be regular consumers.
In February 2020, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) unveiled detailed plans to regulate CBD as a food product. As a result, the industry has invested millions of pounds in research in order to comply with the Novel Foods process.
Following this, in January 2021, the Home Office sought advice from the Government’s Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to make necessary amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act regarding the sale of CBD products.
After a year-long public consultation and public call for evidence, the ACMD submitted a comprehensive report to the Home Office in December 2021 outlining its recommendations for what would constitute an appropriate legal framework to accommodate CBD sales. Despite this, the Home Office is yet to take any further action.
An industry in jeopardy?
The food safety authority currently regulates over-the-counter CBD products in England and Wales, with over 12,000 products permitted for sale by the FSA.
The lack of legal clarity is believed to be preventing the FSA from granting Novel Food authorisations, stalling businesses’ operations and impeding innovation in the sector.
The UK CBD industry is estimated to be worth around £690 million, but according to the ACI, the ongoing uncertainty is leaving the future of over 400 companies in jeopardy.
In July, Jersey-based CBD company, Jersey Hemp, was forced to shut down when the Home Office restricted its export of products to the UK after they were found to contain trace amounts of controlled cannabinoids.
Industry leaders say these actions expose the ‘vulnerability’ of all businesses operating in this sector.
The #SaveOurCBD campaign, launched on Monday 28 August calls on the Home Office to address this issue as a matter of urgency, stating: “We call on the Home Office to provide urgent clarity regarding the establishment of a legal framework within which businesses can operate securely, safely, and responsibly.”
Steve Moore, a representative of the #SaveOurCBD campaign and lead counsel for The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, commented: “We understand the complexities the Home Office faces, but businesses have consistently acted responsibly throughout this period. There is no valid reason why the Home Office cannot provide the much-needed legal clarity that the industry urgently seeks.”
Home Office to provide ‘greater clarity’ on controlled cannabinoid limits
The government is said to be still considering the recommendations of the ACMD report.
In a statement to Cannabis Health, the Home Office insisted that it wants to provide ‘greater clarity’ for the industry in relation to the defined permitted limits of controlled substances, such as THC, in CBD products. Businesses are also advised to seek legal advice regarding the activities they wish to undertake.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a complex area of policy and we are giving close consideration to the recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ report, which sought advice on the issue.’
“We want to provide greater clarity for responsible suppliers by introducing defined permitted limits on the controlled cannabinoid content of consumer CBD products. This will enable responsible suppliers to produce and supply CBD consumer products more easily.”
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