Amazon Enters CBD Retail Market – But Only In One Country

GLOBAL on-line retail giant Amazon is dipping its toes into the CBD market with the first ever products now on sale in a ‘pilot’ programme for UK customers only.

With estimates of the size of the booming global CBD market well into the billions of dollars, Amazon’s move is not surprising.

But it does mark a major shift for the global retailing powerhouse after previously shunning cannabidiol (CBD) for its association with intoxicating cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Amazon’s Statement To BusinessCann

In a statement to BusinessCann Amazon outlined its position as follows: “We are always seeking to increase the selection we offer our customers and help them find and buy anything online.

“The listing and sale of ingestible hemp products, including lozenges, e-liquids, sprays and oils that contain CBD or other cannabinoids are prohibited on Amazon.co.uk, except for sellers participating in a limited, invite-only pilot. 

“The pilot is currently by invitation-only and is not accepting additional sellers.

“This pilot only applies to products listed on Amazon.co.uk and is not available on other Amazon websites.”

BuisnessCann pressed Amazon’s UK media team for the reasoning behind the move at this particular moment in time; why it chose the UK and how it settled upon the handful of chosen suppliers?

However, Amazon refused to be drawn further adding only that the pilot programme had been launched over the summer.

Amazon’s CBD Pilot Limited To A Chosen Few

Our research shows that product from around 10 companies are now available for sale to UK customers.

These include CBD oils, capsules, balms, creams and lubricants. These are sourced from a number of companies including: US firm Naturopathica, UK firm Four Five CBD, Preston company Natures Aid, Vitality CBD, Weider, Green Stem, Skin Republic, Tower Health, of Nottingham, and established UK firm Healthspan.

Amazon still lists a multitude of hemp products, which have strict rules in relation to their sale as outlined here; The only ingestible hemp products that are permitted for sale on Amazon.co.uk are those products that contain cold-pressed hemp seed oil from the Cannabis sativa plant, and that do not contain CBD, THC or other cannabinoids.

Industry Reaction 

Siân Phillips, Managing Director of the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), welcomed the move saying: “From the perspective of the CTA it opens up the UK market place for Hemp and CBD oil sellers and yet another platform for legitimate and compliant companies.”

However, she says it is pressing Amazon to ensure all products are complaint, adding: “On the negative side, will Amazon’s due diligence ensure that sellers are reputable, have products compliant to UK regulations – i.e. no medicinal claims, correctly labelled, etc – and are able to confirm their supply chain as being Novel Food approved after March 2021?

“We have been in touch with Amazon and are awaiting contact from their policy department.”

Leila Simpson, Head of External Affairs, at the UK Association for the Cannabinoid Industry said: “We welcome any developments in the retail space relating to the sale of CBD. 

“Thanks to the legal clarity relating to CBD in the UK, we are likely to see more major retailers getting involved. This is good for the industry.”

UK Regulatory Position Becoming Clear

This last point, above, may well be the reason Amazon has chosen the UK as the test bed for its pilot programme.

As the UK leaves the European Union the regulatory position in relation to CBD in the two markets is also undertaking its own Brexit.

UK regulators the Food Standards Agency has said it views CBD as a food supplement and is looking to establish a well-regulated CBD sector confirming to its Novel Food rules by April 1, next year.

However the European Union’s CBD market is stuck in regulatory quagmire after the European Commission’s July U-turn which sees it now consider CBD a narcotic drug.

In the United States, the regulatory position of CBD is also under a cloud as the market awaits clear guidance from the Food and Drug Administration.

A Turning Point For The Industry

The arrival of Amazon can not be understated and demonstrates what many in the industry have been saying for some time.

That is; Once the regulators are able to establish a clear way forward for the making and selling of CBD products the major brands will enter the market.

Regulatory clarity is needed by the compliance teams of the multi-national food and supplement manufacturers and essential for the ‘big-box’ retailers.

It is therefore not surprising that the companies selected by Amazon for the pilot include the UK arm of German pharmaceutical giant STADA and well-established UK health supplement business Healthspan.

The UK CBD market is said to be worth over £350m, and estimates of the size of the global CBD market over the coming years run into many, many billions.

CBD Industry Is Maturing

At last year’s Hemp & CBD Expo in Birmingham, Garrett Bain, who at the time was Chief Sales and Marketing Manger at GenCanna, elucidated on the CBD industry’s future.

He said: “The pathway for the CBD industry into the big box retail outlets, in the UK with the likes of Tesco and Boots, in the US with Walmart and the others, will be regulation.

“At the moment we are a boutique, and online retail industry, coming from a place of little regulation, but as we grow we will start to see a change taking place.

“It will start with compliance, the delivery of consistent product and establishing a chain of custody – whereby regulators can easily identify where a product has come come from. Any lack of trust across the value chain, will trouble the consumer and trouble the regulators.”

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