The government has accepted recommendations for permitted levels of controlled cannabinoids in CBD products, in a step towards establishing the first legal framework for the industry.
The UK Home Office this week accepted recommendations from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) regarding the legal levels of controlled cannabinoids, including THC, in consumer CBD products.
In December 2021, the ACMD published a report outlining its recommendations for changing the legislation around controlled substances in CBD products.
Then Minister of State for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse also acknowledged the need for legal clarification in January 2021, saying: “There is currently not a legal framework in place specifically exempting CBD products from control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and with this in mind, the Government wishes to explore the possibility of creating a specific exemption in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (‘the 2001 Regulations’) for CBD products which contain no more than a defined trace percentage of controlled cannabinoids.”
In a response to the ACMD report, published on 24 October, Minister for Crime and Policing, Chris Philp MP, said the government intends to accept the advised limit of 50 micrograms of THC and other controlled cannabinoids per unit of consumption.
A unit of consumption or ‘single serving’ is defined as the typical quantity of a CBD product consumed on one occasion, however representatives in the industry have expressed the need for further clarification on what constitutes a typical serving of CBD.
Earlier this month, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a consumer advisory on CBD ingestion, reducing the recommended daily amount from 70mg to 10mg, based on undisclosed toxicology studies relating to isolated CBD products submitted as part of the Novel Foods process.
CBD products could be regulated as a food
The Government has also agreed ‘in principle’ to amend the Exempt Product Definition in relation to CBD products, for example changing the wording of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, to the ‘preparation or other product containing the controlled drug’ rather than the ‘controlled drug’.
This could see CBD products recognised as a foodstuff and regulated under Food Law by the FSA, rather than under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Home Office.
These decisions have been welcomed by the industry as ‘incredibly positive’ with the potential to remove the current ‘ambiguity’ around THC levels in CBD as a Food, and allow for greater innovation.
The Cannabis Trades Associations (CTA) has issued key notes to its members, and its executive directors have held online meetings to explain the current situation to its members.
They stated: “The Government is finally recognising consumer CBD products as a food and uncoupling this from Home Office regulation in relation to narcotics and licensing.”
Sian Phillips, co-executive director of the CTA, said: “This will have an incredibly positive impact on the industry. Ensuring that CBD is recognised as a food, and in setting THC and other phytocannabinoid levels in finished CBD products will help with product innovation, the Novel Food process, and rid the CBD sector of the ambiguity of controlled drugs law hanging over it.
“Permitting 50 micrograms for each phytocannabinoid per unit of consumption allows the consideration of a wider spectrum of CBD consumer products than currently thought.”
Her co-executive director, Marika Graham-Woods, added: “Subject to clarification, bulk manufacturing for CBD as a food may no longer be illegal in the UK, as CBD manufacturing within the parameters outlined is for foodstuff. Retailers will have to be updated on these and other recent recommendations, and many things will require clarification over the coming months, but generally this is a very positive step forward for the CBD sector at last.”
In its response, the Government has also accepted ‘in principle’ the recommendations to allow for more regulated and accurate testing regarding testing for controlled phytocannabinoids, including the implementation of standardised protocols and a requirement to use only accredited laboratories.
Phillips said the CTA is in talks with the FSA, and that despite the need for further clarity, the recommendations ‘change the landscape widely’.
“We still need to work on those grey areas,” she added.
The first legal framework for CBD products
The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) has also welcomed the government’s response to the ACMD recommendations.
In August the organisation launched its ‘Save Our CBD’ campaign which called on the Home Office to implement a legal framework for the sale of CBD products, in order to bring greater clarity and regulation to the sector.
Steve Moore, co-founder of the ACI, commented: “It is imperative for the nascent UK consumer cannabinoid sector that a legal framework is put in place to provide comfort for companies operating in the space and reassurance for consumers and retailers. That this will also help accelerate the regulatory process that businesses have invested in only adds to the importance of the explicit commitment to bring forward the necessary amendments to the Misuse of Drugs 2001 regulations.
“The ACI will comment further after meetings in the coming days with senior Home Office officials who have engaged with this issue honestly and openly in the past three months.”
The Home Office did not immediately respond to Cannabis Health’s request for comment.
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