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European Moves To Brand CBD A ‘Narcotic’ Are A Growing Threat To Industry

MOVES are underway in Brussels to the restrict the sale of CBD across Europe with questions being raised over its designation as a food supplement.

Following a six-year court battle the French entrepreneurs behind the KanaVape product looked set to claim victory over their national authorities.

However, it now appears that the French authorities are looking to circumvent the advisory judgement by referring back to the definition of cannabis and cannabis extracts under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND).

This states that CBD as an extract of the cannabis plant is an illegal – and narcotic – drug substance.

‘Ground-Shifting’ For Industry

Meetings in Brussels, which got underway on Wednesday and concluded yesterday, could yet lead to further limits on the sale of CBD across the Continent.

This comes as thousands of businesses are preparing to meet the challenges of adhering to the Novel Food rules for CBD. 

One leading industry expert said that if a decision is made to adhere to the 1961 SCND it would be ‘ground-shifting’ for the industry.

BusinessCann is currently awaiting an official response from the European Union’s Health and Food Safety team, and an update on developments on this week’s two-day meeting of the Novel Food And Toxicological Safety Committee.

A judgement passed last month by a senior French advisor to the European Court of Justice determined CBD is not a narcotic and should be allowed to be freely tried across the European Union.

The decision – which marked the near culmination of a six-year legal battle – was welcomed as it was expected to require France to change its legislation in order to authorize the sale of CBD extracted from the whole hemp/cannabis plant, or, alternatively demonstrate CBD poses a health risk.

A Food Cannot Be A Narcotic

During this legal battle the French authorities had continued to stick to the position, outlined in the 1961 SCND, that CBD as an extract of the cannabis plant is an illegal – and narcotic – drug substance.

BusinessCann has learnt that a potential path to restrict the sale of CBD, has been mooted under Regulation 178/2002 of the EU General Food Law, which states that a food cannot be a narcotic.

One source with close knowledge of proceedings said: “As the rest of Europe and elsewhere in the world is attempting to prove the safety of CBD the French authorities are once again questioning it.

“One approach, which is being considered, is to lever Regulation 178, which says that a narcotic cannot be sold as a food.”

This Regulation 178-argument was first floated back in 2016 but as the industry grew, focus shifted to regulating CBD through the Novel Food pathway.

In-Depth Analysis

London-based experts The Canna Consultants has published a lengthy analysis of this issue which can be read here.

Co Founders Matt Lawson and Steve Oliver, told BusinessCann: “Whether this is a French initiative or one gathering wider support needs to be keenly observed.  

“The potential ramifications of the ultimate discussions may be wide-ranging for the industry and it is important that we consider the negative as well as the oft touted positives from a casual glance. 

“How the hands are played may determine not only the future direction of the cannabinoid industry in some areas of the world, but whether there even is one.”

The European CBD market is surging ahead and set to be worth over £1bn within a few years.

United Nations Drugs’ Delay

One pathway to remove restrictions on the sale of CBD would be for the United Nations to adopt the views of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that CBD is safe.

Resolutions which would change the status of cannabis in the 1961 SCND and other drug conventions were due to be heard in March, this year, but were deferred until December.

CBD-Intel reported last month that the European Commission Directorate-General for Health (DG Santé) was unsure how a hemp flower extract should be interpreted under the 1961 SCND.

The report went on to say that as a result of this renewed uncertainty ‘all novel food applications for non-synthetic cannabinoids – including CBD – have been frozen and will not be reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

One UK-based expert with an insight on developments believes that the end result for CBD may be the dominance of isolates in Europe.

BusinessCann has approached senior European hemp and CBD industry figures and organisations for comment in reaction to developments and will update this report, as, and when. 

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