EUROPEAN hemp leaders are to open a new front in the on-going continental cannabidiol (CBD) battle by looking to have it classified again as a traditional food.
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has chosen to act after the Czech Ministry of Agriculture signalled its intent to ban products containing CBD.
This followed the European Commission’s (EC) decision, in June last year, to halt the processing of CBD Novel Food applications due to concerns over its safety profile.
Consequently, EIHA has now sought clarification on the traditional status of natural, hemp-extract products with an Article 4 submission under the EC’s Novel Food regulations.
A 14th Century Papal Soup
EC rules stipulate that if it can be proven that the food item in question had been widely consumed as a food across the EC prior to May 1997 it does not have to navigate the Novel Food process.
In January 2021, Business of Cannabis first reported that EIHA was looking to pursue this Article 4 pathway.
At the time, we highlighted how EIHA had identified almost 30 examples of hemp and cannabis extracts being used over the centuries. These included a soup recipe from the personal chef of 14th Century Pope Martin V.
This Roman dish featured juices from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant mixed with spices, including saffron, breadcrumbs and onion.
EIHA Managing Director Lorenza Romanese told Business of Cannabis that it had chosen the Article 4 pathway as a growing number of countries are failing to permit the use of hemp extracts, with naturally occurring levels of cannabinoids.
A Traditional Food
She said: “The Czech Ministry Of Agriculture may well have been feeling some pressure coming from the European Food Safety Authority as a result of the concerns it raised on isolate CBD in June last year.
“However, what we intend to do now is to demonstrate to the Czech Ministry of Agriculture that natural hemp plant extracts are a traditional food that have been used in Czechia, and Europe, for centuries.”
With the Czech Republic at the vanguard of moves to introduce a recreational cannabis market – and having independently raised the THC limit in CBD to 1% in the field – EIHA believes there is a reasonable chance it will succeed.
EIHA’s Article 4 submission has been made directly to the Czech Ministry of Agriculture and it has four months to make a decision, although this may be delayed.
Ms Romanese, with strong support from the Czech hemp cluster, is looking to convince Prime Minister Petr Fiala on the validity of its position.
And, if successful, and based on the founding principles of the European Union in relation to the free movement of goods, then, in theory, it should open up the market for natural hemp-extract products across the 27 member states.
Free Movement Of Goods
However, Ms Romanese highlighted how individual member states can act independently according to the precautionary principle and if they refuse to acknowledge natural hemp-extract products as legal then they could be sanctioned by their own courts of the European Court of Justice.
The natural hemp product at the centre of this submission consists of a 5% traditional full plant extract CBD oil extracted with a traditional pressing mechanism, using a traditional solvent, such as alcohol or carbon dioxide.
The extract is taken from the upper part of the hemp plant, including the seeds.
In the meantime EIHA continues to work on its Novel Food applications for isolate CBD, synthetic CBD and a full-spectrum hemp extract based on an oil with a 10% CBD content.
Ms Romanese added: “Enriched and isolated CBD are novel while the rest are not and have been used in Europe for some time. Our aim is to see this recognised by the European Commission and open up the European market for traditional products, or, if you like, to re-establish the market as it was until 2019.”
Business of Cannabis has reached out to the Czech Ministry of Agriculture for comments on these developments.
As It Was Before
European rules on CBD products were changed in 2019 when the EC determined they were derived from processes developed since 1997, and were, therefore, novel.
CzecHemp president Hanka Gabrielová welcomed the development saying: “A clear distinction between what is novel and what is traditional food ingredient is essential to the existence of the hemp industry itself.
“Consumer’s demand for CBD exists and cannot be ignored. A constructive path to meaningful regulation, as represented by traditional hemp extracts, is for the benefit and protection of the consumers. Hemp is part of the renewable sources and sustainability strategy and its support is really important.”
Ms Romanese added: “CBD and other cannabinoids have always been present in hemp food products over the centuries, particularly in hemp oil from whole seeds or from the tops with the ripe seeds.
“Such history of consumption is well documented, and the use of hemp extracts as food was even endorsed by the European Commission in a communication from 1998.
“By declaring natural extracts as traditional food, the Czech Republic would simply re-establish the situation previous to 2019, when the Novel Food catalogue entry for Cannabis Sativa L. was arbitrarily changed.
“The EIHA is looking forward to a constructive discussion with the Czech authorities in synergy with the Czech hemp sector, with the aim of achieving the best outcome both for consumers and business operators.”