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European Union Reviewing Status Of Minor Cannabinoids And Cannabis Flowers In Cosmetics

LAST year’s KanaVape court case has prompted the European Union to re-think its stance in relation to two further cannabis-related matters.

A 12-page ‘non-paper’ released by the EU this week covers its position on cannabis in its different forms and components.

The non-paper – an EU term for an unofficial document put forward to test the reaction of other parties to possible procedural or policy changes – was presented to the Horizontal Working Party on Drug in June.

The subsequent report covering everything from the current recreational and medical use of cannabis to its agricultural, cosmetic and food uses as well as health and nutritional claims, highlights the impact recent judgements could have on EU policy.

KanaVape Benchmark

These include the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ decision last December to remove cannabis from the most restrictive drug classification and acknowledge its medical benefits.

It also includes last November’s ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ) that CBD is ‘not a narcotic.” 

This ruling was made in relation to the 2014 French prosecution of two businessmen importing Czech CBD extracts from whole hemp plants.

French law stated that only the fibre and seeds of hemp containing less than 0.2% of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, could be put to commercial use, not the flower. 

But the ECJ ruled that EU member states cannot prohibit the sale of CBD lawfully manufactured in another European Union country, even if the CBD is extracted from the entire hemp plant and not solely from its fibre and seeds.

EU Assessing Impact Of ECJ Rulings

Looking at cannabinoids – and in particular CBD – the EU’s non-report says that “in light of the judgement in Case C-663/18 9 (The KanaVape case) and [the] current state of scientific knowledge, it appears that cannabidiol, whether obtained as an extract of the Cannabis sativa plant or artificially synthesised, should not be considered as a drug within the meaning of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs provided that it does not have any psychotropic effect.”

Leading on from this, the report discloses “the Commission services are assessing the implications of this judgement for other non-psychoactive cannabinoids,” a group which includes cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabidivarin (CBDV).

The outcome of Case C-663/18, says the report, may also have implications on cosmetics regulation “as regards cannabidiol extracted from the entirety of the Cannabis sativa plant,” and adds that it will be necessary to assess the impact.

It was only last year that the EU lifted a ban introduced in 2019 on the use of natural plant hemp leaves in creams and cosmetics following a successful lobbying campaign by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), led by its managing director, Lorenza Romanese.

Ms Romanese told BusinessCann clarity was needed from the Commission on the legal framework going forward following the ECJ ruling, especially as the EC had added CBG as a permissible component to the ‘CosIng’ cosmetics ingredient database earlier this year.

Deliberations ‘Unnecessary’

Given the latter move, she dismissed the need to consider the consequences of the judgement on other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

“My comment would be, are we joking or what? We want to impose a barrier on a substance that shouldn’t carry any barriers? What do you want me to do? To check the safety of CBG, CBN and all the other millions of compounds that science will find in the next years?

“Where is it written that CBG is a controlled substance? We cannot go down the road of checking each and every single non-sequitur compound of the cannabis plant.

“It has surprised me as the reality is different on the ground. They gave us CBG and now they are saying they should have checked before giving it to us.”

EIHA Managing Director Lorenza Romanese.

Ms Romanese questioned whether there would be enough laboratories to do the testing. “What does it mean if they have to assess all? We know that the cannabis plant has 100 compounds more or less. I am not saying the Commission will check 100 compounds, but I’m reading the note and understanding it and stating that the reality is different.

“I would say that they will really check each and every one. But who the public organisation is who should check is not clear. The Commission has no laboratories in-house. They have legal services but no laboratories. 

“We know that in Europe you have less than five laboratories that can check all the cannabinoids.”

However, she added that the scene had changed quite rapidly following the November 2020 court case, and December’s UN rulings.

“The scenario is far better than it was in summer 2020.”

The EU non-paper stems from a request to the Commission made in the latter half of 2019 by Finland when the Scandinavian country held the six-month rotating Presidency, for a factual overview of current legislation, legal acts and court decisions relating to cannabis within the EU.

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