CBD in the UK – The sad saga continues

In this blog, Simpa provides an update to the situation with CBD in the UK. Since publishing the first blog – a lot has come to light

CBD in the UK

The sad saga continues

I recently released, what turned out to be a rather popular blog titled ‘What is happening with CBD in the UK’ Since publishing several CBD companies, trade association personnel, and influential individuals have reached out to me. The information they have provided has revealed that all is not what it seems.

In the previous blog, I spoke about the FSA only accepting isolate or distillate product applications for novel foods. However, sources close to The Simpa Life have revealed that there are several major companies that have submitted novel food CBD applications for broad and full-spectrum whole plant products to the FSA. 

These companies have submitted their application along with documents that show the efficacy and safety of their products. I have been told that if a company can provide evidence of sales, safety certificates, and lab test results that they will still be considered regardless of whether the product is isolate or whole-plant. 

Several sources have also confirmed that the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has submitted on behalf of a large consortium of UK brands with diverse products including whole-plant products that are both broad and full-spectrum.

I have also been contacted by the owner of a large CBD company in the UK who has spoken directly with the FSA. In their conversations, they discovered that the ACI is overstating their relationship with the FSA. There is no official partnership, but there are individuals within the organisation that are working with them to ensure that regulation changes benefit their member’s ideal restrictive access model.

We have discussed CBD with various trade bodies and many other organisations involved in the novel food and CBD industry. We will continue to do so. While it is important that we understand their views, we have not in any way endorsed any specific trade body’s approach to the route to compliance for CBD extract products” – FSA guide to CBD

The statement announcing the partnership on the ACI’s website is misleading and in my opinion designed to dissuade the average company from applying on their own without paying the association to submit on their behalf.

ACI has an excellent relationship with the Food Standards Agency, Food Safety Scotland, and the Home Office. We work closely with all relevant regulatory bodies to ensure the best outcomes for the industry” – ACI prospectus Feb 21

There are 116 individual Trading Standards agencies in the UK according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. The ACI has secured a deal with just ONE of them. The deal they have agreed is a PAP or a Primary Authority Partnership with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards.

A PAP agreement is when a business partner with a local authority for advice on how to comply with trading standards. Usually, in these situations, the local authority is the one calling the shots, but with this one, it appears to be the other way round.

The remaining 115 other institutions have not yet partnered with any organisation to produce regulatory frameworks in their local authorities. This is a golden opportunity for some of the other cannabis associations to step-up and provide unbiased data and information to these authorities to help prove the case for whole-plant products.

This would finally give those that understand that the benefits of whole plant full-spectrum cannabis products far out-weigh those of isolate and synthetic cannabinoids – a voice within the wider industry.

ACI has an excellent relationship with the Food Standards Agency, Food Safety Scotland, and the Home Office. We work closely with all relevant regulatory bodies to ensure the best outcomes for the industry” 

The above statement is taken from the updated ACI prospectus released a few weeks ago. It is emblematic of the threat this association poses to whole plant companies and defenders of cannabis-derived cannabinoids.

The above statement is also contradictory to the information provided on the FSA website.  

Food businesses should apply for authorisation of their CBD extracts and isolates to be placed on the GB market using our regulated products application service. This is the only route to compliance for these CBD products, and no separate arrangement has been made with any specific business or industry sector’ – FSA novel food guidelines

The very name tells you all you need to know about this organisation. The Association of the Cannabinoid Industry. The keyword there being CANNABINOID not cannabis. They deliberately choose to avoid using the word cannabis. Instead of choosing the name of the compounds found in cannabis that their members are working hard to produce chemical analogs and synthetic processes to remove cannabis from the equation altogether.

This allows for a small cabal of wealthy investors, corrupt politicians, as well as pharmaceutical and ‘medical cannabis’ companies the opportunity to restrict and monopolise the industry. Harvesting the therapeutic benefits and properties of cannabis – while still being able to persecute and criminalise those that cultivate and consume it.

ACI exists as both a guardian for industry standards and to provide expert stewardship for businesses in the regulatory sphere” – ACI prospectus

These classist gentrifying agents of agony are not interested in freeing the cannabis plant from unevidenced and ideological legal restrictions. Far from it, they only seek to profiteer from the creation of an industry that has been built on the perpetuation of prohibition and the suffering of millions of everyday cannabis consumers.

The main thing that the FSA is looking for is data, proof of safety, and non-toxicity. These have become important topics over the last few years after the CMC released a report that ‘randomly’ tested 29 CBD products on UK shelves.

This report found that pretty much all but the then three CMC member companies were outside of the 10% margin used to define if a product was correctly labeled. That’s just a coincidence though, I’m sure.

The same report found that seven of the products tested contained residual solvent from the extraction process and one contained detectable levels of heavy metals. This report was then leaked to the mainstream press in the UK sparking calls for stricter regulations. Again, just another coincidence, I’m sure.

The release of this report greatly harmed the standing of fellow wannabe regulators who saw an exodus of companies following its publication. This was allegedly accelerated by certain individuals within organisations ‘jumping ship’ with access to membership lists and other sensitive data.

So with the FSA Novel Food application window fast closing what can companies do to ensure compliance after the March 31st deadline? The ACI and CMC would have them believe that the only route to access the FSA and gain a validated application is to pay them for the privilege.

Membership fees at the ACI and CMC have now been standardised to one flat rate of just £25,000 per-year. A bargain for all those budding ‘mom and pop’ CBD businesses. This exceedingly high membership price ensures that they only help those that will ultimately help them financially in the long run.

You can file out your application for free online now. However, to of gained a validated application by March 31st you would have realistically needed to of submitted it by now. This is due to the expected processing time and a large backlog of applications.

After the deadline has passed, only products that were already on the market before the decision made on 13th February 2020 and for which the FSA has a validated application will be legally available.

The FSA has advised local authorities that businesses should be allowed to continue to sell if their existing CBD products are correctly labeled, safe, and do not contain substances that fall under current interpretations of UK drugs legislation. No new brands will be sold until they have the necessary authorisation. Currently, a validated application is not sufficient to legally put new CBD products on the market.

This seems to suggest that white labeling companies could get approval for a product and supply it to individual companies under different brand names. There is also a clause that states that ‘if the applicant requests and is granted confidentiality, then key aspects of production and the research evidence base may not be available to others for five years.’ The perfect way to create a monopoly from day one. 

As with the PAP agreements discussed above any trade body can submit applications on behalf of client companies. So group submissions for standard products that are sold under different brands seemingly can apply together as well.

Don’t forget that the FSA has set a deadline of 31 March 2021 for all CBD companies to have a validated novel foods application for each of their products. Those non-compliant companies will face the potential that their products will be removed from UK shelves and they may risk criminal prosecution.

That being said, several sources I have spoken with assure me that there will not be an apocalyptic event on April 1st with hundreds of brands becoming targeted for now being illegal overnight. In reality, it will take the relevant authorities quite some time to catch up and understand how to enforce the regulations.

I now believe that there will be a discretionary phase where businesses are allowed to sell off their non-compliant products and avoid prosecution. If the rumors are to be believed then there will be a good number of broad and full-spectrum products available on the market from April anyway making enforcement that much harder.

Broad and full-spectrum products that have a validated FSA application will temporarily remain legal until the government clarifies its definition of ‘acceptable’ trace levels of THC in CBD and hemp-cannabis products. If Kit Malthouse gets his way it will be defined between 0.01% and 0.0001% by weight per controlled cannabinoid.

The recommendation was made in a letter written by Kit Malthouse, the Police and Justice Minister to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) In this correspondence he asked for clarification of what percentage THC can be defined as an acceptable ‘trace’ amount. Under current rules, the Home Offices allows up to 1mg of THC per product.

The ACI wrote a letter in response to MP Malthouse where they claim “our report has independently considered all the available data and recommends a THC safety limit of 0.03%” a reduction that would make it incredibly difficult for whole-plant phytocannabinoid product producers to compete with cheap isolate and synthetic producers and suppliers. 

There is a potential silver lining to all of this. The more powerful and greedy the ‘Medical cannabis industrial complex’ becomes the easier it is to demonstrate to the rest of the world that their ‘prohibition 2.0’ is not the only path.

In much the same way that individuals and nations with vested financial interests in resources such as timber, petroleum, cotton, and pharmaceuticals framed the debate around the 1961 and 1971 UN convention. So too are the vested interests of today seeking to ensure that any legislation changes directly benefits only them.

The shadowy figures that have for too long haunted the chambers of power and forced the unseen hand of the market to bend to their whim are now beginning to be revealed. Let us hope the true scale of their corruption, cronyism, and criminality will be brought to light and their masochistic machinations prevented from creating further destruction and division within the UK cannabis movement.

Regardless of what happens with the CBD situation, it should be enough to prove to the plethora of CBD and hemp-cannabis companies out there that this cartel is not the only way to a legal market.

The alternative that I am proposing to the ‘Medical cannabis industrial complex’ is a truly unified push to once and for all end ALL cannabis prohibition. Creating a broad-spectrum coalition of cannabis consumers, companies, academics, campaigners, scientists, and industry specialists -we could be united with one mission. 

The ubiquitous removal of Cannabis Sativa L and all its derivatives from the antiquated, classist, and draconian Misuse of Drugs Act and subsequent failed legislation. Seeking to replace it with a new regulatory framework democratically designed by the above collective through reasonable debate, civil discussion, and respectful discourse. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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