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Q&A: Talking Innovation with the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry

What are some of the regulatory complexities surrounding CBD?

In January 2019, the European Commission reclassified CBD products as a Novel Food. This is up to each member state to enforce, and we’ve been in discussions with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to discuss how we can achieve compliance on behalf of our members.

The issue is that if a company doesn’t have a Novel Foods designation, technically they’re unauthorised. Are they just going to clear the market and wait for companies to get up to speed with Novel Foods, which could take two to three years? The FSA is just about to issue guidance instructions on enforcement, and we’ve seen a couple of cases of enforcement already, so it’s slowly happening.

We as a group are pretty ambivalent about regulation – we just want the industry to be compliant with whatever regulations there are, because that foments trust. And a lot of the issues our report showed – like no CBD in certain products, contaminants etc – are much less likely in a more tightly regulated environment.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) put out a statement late last year looking for clearer guidance on enforcement, and we absolutely welcome that. It’s good that other organisations are seeing the pitfalls of wantonly selling CBD products without knowing what’s in them.

For now, anything you find in Holland and Barrett that’s sold as a food supplement is unauthorised. This causes us huge problems, because what you’re finding is the best quality products aren’t making it onto the shelves in the UK, while companies with no desire to be compliant are running the industry. That puts a ceiling on what the industry can achieve, and is also part of why we decided to create the ACI.

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