Authorities have recently raided a leading CBD contract manufacturing company in Iasi, Romania in what the company has described as an ‘absurd and disproportionate measure’.
CanX CBD was hit by local police forces on September 19, seeing the company’s entire staff arrested and all of its products seized, in what the local media painted as an orchestrated takedown of an ‘organised criminal group’.
The company’s CEO, Philipp Fuhrmann, who remains under ‘house arrest’ after having spent 55 days in preventive detention/jail, told Business of Cannabis: “We were licenced, we were registered, we were paying our taxes, everything we did was completely above board.”
Despite making every effort to operate legitimately, and receiving confirmation from the Romanian Ministry of Health that HHC was legal and not subject to national control, the business has ‘essentially been put on hold’ over the ongoing legal dispute.
CanX CBD, founded in 2019, operated one of Europe’s largest GMP certified extraction facilities, specialising in the cultivation and wholesale manufacturing of white label bulk CBD distillates and isolates for the global CBD market.
It’s 33,000sq ft facility, located in Miroslava, was GMP, HACCP, ISO22000 and KOSHER certified.
According to Mr Fuhrmann, as a contract manufacturer the company was always driven by consumer demand, and requests began to come through to produce Delta 8 in 2021 which the company consequently refused knowing that D8, a derivative of THC, would not be allowed in Romania.
However, when requests to manufacture products with HHC (a CBD derivative) began to materialise in 2022 the company added HHC vaping products to its production line-up after receiving positive indications from the Romanian authorities and successfully registering the products on the TPD European database.
During this period, the company engaged with a number of legal and regulatory bodies, including the ANA (National Anti-Drug Agency), the Ministry of Health, the BCCO (Brigade Against Organised Crime), DIICOT (Directorate for Investigation Organised Crime and Terrorism), ANAF (National Agency of Fiscal Administration), in an effort to ensure the production of HHC was legal on the territory of Romania.
Business of Cannabis has reached out to a number of these organisations regarding the raid, but have received no responses at the time of writing.
Crucially, in a response from the Ministry of Health seen by Business of Cannabis from May 2023, CanX was informed in writing that HHC is ‘not a controlled substance’ nor subject to national control’ in the territory of Romania.
“We were under the impression that these interactions allowed us to maintain open channels of communication and foster mutual understanding, but we were obviously mistaken,” Mr Fuhrmann said.
On September 19, ‘two minutes’ after the employees arrived at the CanX facility, it was raided by a group of armed special forces. Mr Fuhrmann whose name had not been part of the investigation file and who happened to be present at the time of the raid voluntarily went along with the officials to the DIICOT offices in order to clear up the situation, produce all pertinent licences and correspondences from the Romanian government – he was subsequently detained alongside his staff of 7.
This raid was one of over 100 raids carried out that day across the country by DIICOT and the Iasi Organised Crime Squad as part of a major operation, which saw 28 individuals arrested, and tens of thousands of items seized including the company’s stock, laptops and mobiles.
Local media suggested that police seized ‘81,102 vapes, 3,237 lollipops, 1,316 boxes and bags of jellies, 169 boxes and jars of cakes, 169 cannabis seeds, 3,692 containers of various sizes. 299,333 lei, 29,225 euros and 9,200 dollars were also discovered and seized. At the same time, 65 telephones, 23 laptops, 5 kilograms of silver in the form of five ingots, silver coins, 2 cannabis plants, 400 boxes, grills, envelopes, jars of vegetable substances, 8 buckets containing approximately 74.2 litres of liquid substance, 14 boxes of defective vaporizers, weighing approximately 149 kilograms,’ across the network of stores and distributors not related to or owned by CanX CBD.
Video Source: https://www.vremeanoua.ro/
Video footage of the raid, alongside images of the products seized and the equipment inside the facility was almost immediately published by local media organisations, who dubbed the site the ‘dream factory’, and hailed the raid as an orchestrated takedown of a major criminal network.
“They put us into a 24-hour detention, after which we went in front of the first judge. In the first instance he let us go, because he saw all our documented communication with the authorities and our registrations and it was clear the company made every conceivable effort to be compliant”
However, after seven days on so-called judicial control, the prosecutor intervened and the Court of Appeal put the CanX staff of eight back into ‘preventative detention’, where they spent the next 54 days.
Many of the allegations faced by CanX, reported widely in local media, related to these apparent edible products, and the fact that the supposedly ‘potentially deadly’ substances would have been made readily available to minors.
As Mr Fuhrmann points out, CanX does not possess the capability to manufacture edible products, nor does it sell any products directly to consumers, ‘particularly minors’.
The two main allegations held against the company are ‘the establishment of an organised criminal group’, and carrying out operations with products ‘likely to have psychoactive effects’.
Furthermore, regarding the legality of HHC, the prosecutors have pointed to its inclusion in the EMCDDA’s Early Warning System, which Business of Cannabis reported in January this year.
The EWS is governed by ANA in Romania via the Ritox network and no communication or public statements were issued regarding HHC to the contrary – on the 17th of March 2023 – the ANA publicly stated that HHC was legal in Romania.
CanX CBD has registered complaints against both the Romanian Ministry of Health as well as the ANA regarding the lack of governance and communication with the European Commission.
According to legal opinions acquired by Mr Fuhrmann from a lawyer understood to have co-authored the Romanian penal code, none of these allegations hold much weight, especially given their vague nature.
“A letter or any notification of concern would have been sufficient for us to address this, discuss the matter with the authorities and take appropriate action. We were expecting the government to contact us if there was a concern, but we did not expect them to raid our facility and take us to jail.”
The company’s 8 staff remain on house arrest’, meaning they’re unable to communicate with each other, or leave their respective homes for at least another 30 days. At the time of writing the investigation is still ongoing and no charges have been pressed.