Back in November 2018 we were sent a letter by our local council in London, after a routine inspection, to say that we had to stop trading with immediate effect due to the reclassification by the FSA of CBD to a Novel food. So our claim to fame is that we were the first company in the country to be served with this notice and also the first company to find out what was in store for the CBD industry.
Everyone in the industry thought it was a mistake at first, that the FSA and our local council had got it all wrong but by January 2019 it was official the FSA had announced this reclassification on their website. We were very lucky to have been a member of the Cannabis Trade Association who introduced us to Robert Jappie, a specialist Cannabis Lawyer, who helped us navigate these unchartered waters and to eventually continue trading (legally).
Honestly at the time it was incredibly stressful for the whole team and we thought we would lose the business but this baptism of fire meant we had a crash course in what was to come. We started to help other companies understand what we believed was going to be the future of the market and how all raw material CBD supplier would be required to have put in an application to the FSA, as an independent company or a consortium, for a Novel Foods license, by the end of March 2021. But there are a number of other major changes and possible developments that are not as well publicised that will affect which ingestible CBD products we can sell in the UK.
So firstly what is a ‘Novel' food?
A food is deemed ‘Novel' if it wasn’t consumed as a food in large quantities before 1997 and whilst hemp and Cannabis have been, the process of extracting CBD in its current form is considered Novel. Interestingly many other supplements have also been reclassified as Novel including Vitamin K and Chia Seeds so CBD is not alone.
What are the challenges that CBD will face in 2021?
1.CBD has more challenges than most of the other products that are considered to be food supplements. Firstly it is derived from Hemp which is a strain of the Cannabis plant and it still a controlled substance. The first hurdle was successfully jumped when the EU confirmed on the 19th of November 2020.
“The Court observes that the provisions on the free movement of goods within the European Union are applicable, since the CBD at issue in the main proceedings cannot be regarded as a ‘narcotic drug’.
The Court notes that, according to the current state of scientific knowledge, which it is necessary to take into account, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly called THC), another hemp cannabinoid, the CBD at issue does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health.
The next chance big opportunity for the industry comes on the 2nd of December 2020 when the UN vote on reclassifying Cannabis to Schedule 2 and declassifying CBD. However this won’t change the FSA’s position on CBD being a novel food that is still happening regardless!
2. Finally something Brexit is good for!
If the UN don’t vote to reschedule and reclassify then from the 1st of January the UK won’t come under that umbrella, however the downside is that no CBD raw materials supplier will be able to apply for this license until the 1st January 2021 as that is the point that the UK takes back control of this legal status. So CBD companies will have approx 90 days to submit an application for all their raw materials (for ingestible CBD products only) to the FSA and if they say your products will not pass their process then you either have to find that evidence or accept that you won’t be able to sell that product after 31st of March.
Also the concern of the legal firms guiding companies through this application process is that it won’t give companies enough time to amend their applications, based on feedback from the FSA, and there are already considered to be major flaws in the Novel Foods process regarding the requirements for toxicity reports etc. which leaves things unclear and open to challenge.
There has also been a lot of talk about how local authorities will police this process and how they will be able to determine which products are actually in the process of being considered by the FSA, which have been considered and turned down and which have not submitted any form of Novel foods application. Also with thousands of brands it is possible that it will take months if not years to shut all non-compliant companies down and in the meantime these may go underground or just keep selling until they get a knock at the door.
According to the U.K.’s consumer-protection agency, Trading Standards, products with a validated application can remain on the market while the authorization process is ongoing. The agency estimates this process could take up to 17 months.
3. We need to talk about THC (that’s what gets you stoned!) and the ways we consumer CBD
Now there are many forms of CBD, we have full spectrum which in the UK contains the current legal limit of THC which won’t appear on a drugs test or get you high (0.2%) and contains the entourage effect of other cannabinoids and terpenes. Then there is Broad Spectrum where you have all the cannabinoids and terpenes including CBD but the THC has been completely removed. Finally you have Isolate - which is a powder form of pure CBD with nothing else. Now the argument the FSA are using is that whilst CBD is classified as a food supplement it might interact with other medications in the body along with other cannabinoids found in broad and full spectrum products and they just want to keep customers safe by regulating this further.
We are not allowed to discuss medical stuff in relation to CBD however it makes sense that they would want to bring all brands into line, ensuring quality, purity and above all the safety of every customer. There are also a lot of conspiracy Pharma theories flying around but again there always are when it comes to big health changes so we won’t jump on that band wagon.
However the concern is that CBD works with the Endocannabinoid System
, along with other cannabinoids and terpenes which are included to support the nervous system, in what we call the entourage effect. So if these elements were removed to create pure CBD, along with legally allowed amount of THC, it would limit its beneficial effects potentially.
So what will we be allowed to sell after the Novel foods application process is completed?
The answer is we really don’t know. The worst case scenario is nothing, if companies don’t get approval for any ingestible CBD product in their range. It is more than likely that Full Spectrum oils and other ingestible products will be taken off the market along with Broad Spectrum potentially. Isolate is likely to be approved but as we have already said this might not provide customers with an alternative that they feel has the same benefits. None of this information will truly be know until the first quarter of 2021 when the Novel foods applications start to be processed.
Why are we not panicking at The Canni Family?
There is no point worrying about the things we can do literally nothing about until next year, we have done all we can to be ready and now we have to wait. There are so many parts of this complex CBD puzzle that need to happen in order for us to be able to charter a way through it to continue trading. We currently import our range from a raw materials supplier in the EU - so if the UN declassify CBD entirely it will open the floodgates and allow further ree trade. If the UK decide to approve only Isolate, which ironically is not currently legal for human consumption in the UK without a Novel foods license, so you can’t currently buy it, then we will have to decide if we want to continue with this option.
In our humble opinion we feel that the most likely situation is that Isolate and perhaps Broad spectrum CBD will be allowed in the UK under FSA with a Novel foods license. But the main reason we not panicking is that we have already been through this process once before with the FSA a new thing for us (at least we are not alone this time!) and we do believe that if we can survive this regulation of the CBD market which will ensure products are safe for the consumer - who is still the most important person in this process, then there will be greater opportunities to come for us in the future.
So we will Keep Calm and Carry on Selling CBD until we are told to stop, which we will be legally allowed to do from 1st April as long as that specific product is currently under review by the FSA novel foods panel.
In short, if we wanted an easy life we should have chose another industry (cake baking perhaps), but we didn’t because we believe this product is beneficial (which is about all we are allowed to say!) and with so many parts of the world legalising Cannabis and declassifying CBD we truly believe these are exciting times for this amazing plant!