The Impact of Brexit on CBD Regulations for the UK

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The Impact of Brexit on CBD Regulations for the UK

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been heavily under discussion over the last few years regarding its legality and role in the market. The current vagueness of the law has created a substantial CBD industry in the UK that is both competitive and unregulated.

In addition, the popularity of CBD in the UK has been difficult to determine. The discourse complicates further as the impact of Brexit plays an additional role in the uncertainty of cannabis- and hemp-derived products.

CBD UK Law

Pure CBD 99.9%Under British law, pure CBD sourced from industrial hemp is completely legal to be sold in the UK, while cannabis is not. Pure CBD is not classified as a controlled substance.

However, because of the nature of the plants used to make CBD, its production faces a legal grey area. Some CBD products are made using cannabis plants instead of hemp, as they deliver more THC than standard CBD. While some consumers need these products, it muddied the waters about what CBD is, where it comes from, and which strain of plant is being used to create the products.

As a result, CBD currently exists in a loophole and the industry is operating largely unregulated.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

The Misuse of Drugs Act sets much of the precursor for much of the existing law regarding controlled substances. Under this act, cannabis was classified as a Class B substance until 2004, when it was moved to Class C.

In 2009, it was then moved back to Class B. A Class B substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act is punished by up to 14 years of jail time and unlimited fines. However, industrial hemp is legal to cultivate and CBD is legal, creating this legal grey area.

However, because of the nature of the plants used to make CBD, its production faces a legal grey area. Some CBD products are made using cannabis plants instead of hemp, as they deliver more THC than standard CBD. While some consumers need these products, it muddied the waters about what CBD is, where it comes from, and which strain of plant is being used to create the products.

As a result, CBD currently exists in a loophole and the industry is operating largely unregulated.

CBD as a Novel Food

In the European Union, foods that did not have a substantial history of consumption prior to 1997 are classified as Novel Foods, and must be specifically authorised by the European Commission (EC) in order to be sold. Until recently, CBD has largely been unregulated. In 2019, the EC amended the list to include extracts of cannabis sativa and derived cannabinoid products.

The amended Novel Food Catalogue allows the cultivation of hemp plants that have less than 0.2% THC, as some industrial hemp products such as seed oil and flour are not Novel Foods. However, all cannabinoids, including both THC and CBD, and any extracts are considered Novel Foods and have no history of consumption. The World Health Organisation supports that CBD does not create dependence and can be effective in promoting medical benefits.

This caused a lot of controversy and confusion as to how European countries, as well as the UK, would adapt. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK stands by the claim made by the EC, agreeing that all CBD products should be approved first. However, the Novel Food Catalogue is not legally binding and the UK has loosely enforced this requirement.

As the UK moves to establish its own policies for many items in the near future, its lack of strict enforcement and its potentially large market could allow for more change. Brexit can create a huge opportunity for the CBD industry in the UK by encouraging the development of cannabis oil, hemp-derived food supplements, and CBD products.

Supply and Demand

The UK has a massive CBD market, and its legal uncertainty requires relying more on the import of hemp than local production. While CBD remains legal in the UK, there are some potential obstacles with Brexit. Since a majority of the CBD supply is imported from Europe, Brexit could pose possible interference with current importers, but may create new relationships with new suppliers.

On the other hand, the selling of goods to mainland Europe may also be affected. Barriers to importing and exporting may strain supply and demand.

Hemp cultivators must choose strains from an approved list, many of which are great for industrial purposes but may not be high in CBD or terpenes. While the restriction on maintaining lower than 0.2% THC content still allows farmers to use hemp plants high in CBD, the current UK restrictions do not actually accommodate for such strains.

Final Thoughts

With both Brexit and standardisation of cannabinoid regulations occurring simultaneously, the future of CBD is still being carved. A huge UK market could potentially help push it in a positive direction, facilitating processes for CBD producers.

However, if the UK continues to tighten regulation, the CBD market may see delays. In the meantime, purchase CBD products from reputable vendors that follow current regulations for selling CBD in the UK. At Canzon, we have a third-party laboratory test all of our products so you know exactly what ingredients are in each CBD oil, cream, balm, and e-liquid.

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