What is happening with CBD in the UK?
As if last year wasn’t bad enough. We are only five weeks into 2021 and already we have seen the cannabis industry take several massive blows. First, the havoc caused by Brexit on the importation of cannabis seeds, the impending rollout of FSA regulation, and now the UK Home Office effectively decapitating the CBD industry by banning bulk imports without a licence.
It was announced by the Home Office this week that all companies that are importing bulk CBD isolates or distillates will now have to of secured a Schedule One Controlled-drug licence before importation. A class of licence typically given to pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers.
The move comes after the Police and Justice Minister, Kit Malthouse requested clarification from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) on accepted THC levels in CBD products. In the correspondence, the Minister suggested drafting new guidelines on permitted trace levels of THC. The proposals presented ranged from 0.01% to 0.0001% – which in reality is an unachievable low level.
“The lack of clarity on the 1mg rule has been an issue for the CBD industry for a number of years. I would absolutely welcome Home Office clarity on minor THC components in CBD products, but it has to be done in a way that is supportive of the industry.” – Robert Jappie Partner at INCE
This is a huge blow to an industry that is already set to take another massive hit when it becomes “legitimised” on April 1st, 2021 – when the FSA becomes the regulator for the entire UK CBD industry. We have known for quite some time that eventually, a regulator would have to emerge to govern the industry and stamp out the plethora of CBD cowboy conmen out there. It was, however, hoped by most that it would be an impartial one populated by intelligent individuals with experience, expertise, and a passion for the plant – not just profit.
So what does this mean for the industry? In truth, a lot is still unknown at this point. What we do know is that currently, the FSA are classifying CBD isolate and distillate for ingestion as a novel food. We also know they are concerned that other cannabinoids found in broad and full-spectrum products can interact with medications in the body.
Accordingly, I believe that it is likely that they will only allow isolate or distillate products onto the market at first. Leaving the ‘medical cannabis’ industry to profit from the restrictions by creating broad and full-spectrum CBMPs.
It will take a long time for the FSA to approve all of the valid applications that it has collected. The agency themselves have suggested that it may take up to 17 months. In the meantime, Trading Standards have said that any company with a validated pending FSA application can continue to trade until the process is completed.
Over the last few years, several organisations have sought to win over the individual companies and organisations that make up the industry by promising that they alone could provide a pathway to legality, longevity, and legitimacy in the British Cannabis industry.
Organisations like The CTA, The CMC, The ACI, and Hanway associates (to name but a few) have all in some way mislead British CBD and hemp companies into signing up and paying often eye-watering expensive fees. All on the notion that they would fight for legislation to protect their company’s interests within the emerging UK cannabis industry. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
These organisations had a rather public spat in the press in 2019. When The CMC hired Sativa Group PLC (now a member of The ACI) to perform a blind test on 30 major retail CBD brand oils. They then published a damning report that found that many were mislabeled and almost half of them were ‘technically illegal’. This caused a great deal of harm to consumer confidence and the movement to relegalise cannabis in the UK.
The individuals within these organisations have used the dues paid by these too often naive companies to sway various politicians toward their now shared financial interests. Just look at the GW – Tory fiasco to give you an idea of just how deep the corruption goes.
They have used this money, power, and influence to ensure that when the legislation for ‘medical cannabis’ was drafted in 2018 that it directly benefited their corporate interests and the minority of companies that can afford to pay to play. The same is happening now with CBD and Hemp – Pleasant lands anyone?
It emerged recently that The ACI was not only not fighting against the clearly false designation of CBD as a novel food but that they are actually partnering with the FSA. In an update released on their website, they announced the partnership that includes an agreement for The ACI to ‘run educational webinars and develop literature to enable Trading Standards officers to recognise non-compliant CBD products.
“This will enable us to ensure our members are getting the best available advice to help raise the standards of the industry and more easily share intelligence with the regulator about non-compliant products after the Novel Foods 31st March 2021 deadline” – Leila Simpson, ACI Innovation Director
Trading Standards will be responsible for monitoring CBD products on the market and ensuring their regulatory compliance after the deadline has passed. They will use the training provided by The ACI to create and maintain a national intelligence database. Just how much prosecuting power they will possess is unclear at this time.
Trading standards also announced that they will be reciprocating information as well as providing bespoke educational resources to The ACI and its members covering advertising claims, labeling, and food safety management. Clearly giving them and their members an unfair advantage and opportunity to monopolise the entire UK CBD industry right out of the gate.
For the last few years, I have been trying to warn the industry that these self-appointed regulatory bodies didn’t have their best interests at heart. I have done countless live streams discussing this very subject, only to be left feeling like I am screaming into the abyss.
I have written numerous articles and I have spoken on stages at various cannabis events and CBD expos imploring the industry to see what I see coming. In the hope of uniting the industry to fighting for ubiquitous legalisation and a level playing field for all.
Last summer, I wrote a Call to Arms letter hoping that others shared my concerns and fears but unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. So it deeply saddens me to see so many of the things I feared to come to fruition. This isn’t quite the end of the story yet though. There is still a lot that we can do as believers in a world where cannabis is free.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now’. My friends, it is time to finally cast off the arbitrary distinctions between our sectors and recognise that if we do not unite and fight there will be nothing left for any of us when the vultures of venture capitalism have finished with the corpse of cannabis.
I call on the Hydro industry, the industrial hemp industry, the ‘medical cannabis’ industry, the CBD industry, the cannabis lifestyle brands, the activists, advocates, the dealers, healers, and herbal leaders. I call on you in our hour of need to have the fortitude to stand up for what is right and not just take what crumbs you hope they may give you.
There will never be a better time to come together to protect the plant, culture, and community we all love. We all just want to see the war over and all cannabis consumers to be free to cultivate whatever relationship they choose with this plant that has given us all so much.
The pie they are cooking seems large and smells rather good, but do not fool yourself into thinking that they will ever give you a slice. The only way we get a piece of the pie is if we all roll up our sleeves and bake it.
Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com