Legal cannabis extract cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil, has become more popular than vitamin C supplements in the UK. The Times newspaper reports that the oil, which doesn’t contain any of the psychotropic THC element associated with the cannabis ‘high’, has been taken by an estimated 6 million consumers in the UK – more than other popular supplements such as vitamin C. However, with questions around whether all of the CBD products on the market meet high quality standards the industry is planning to introduce a ‘kitemark’-style quality standard.
CBD oil is believed by many to help alleviate symptoms of conditions such anxiety, depression and insomnia. UK regulators do not believe there is yet enough solid clinical evidence to allow CBD oil products to market themselves as medical supplements, so they are currently branded as food supplements while clinical trials and research is ongoing. However, that doesn’t appear to be stopping UK consumers who are enthusiastically snapping the oils up, with many reporting benefits.
However, CBD oil products still fall into a legal grey area in the UK. Technically, CBD products should not be sold for human consumption after the European Food Safety Agency categorised them as a ‘new food’. That means product makers have to pass expensive certification testing to prove safety and gain a license. As yet, no producer has received that license but the UK’s Food Standard’s Agency has also not started to enforce the European directive.
But a study conducted on 30 popular CBD oil products sold in the UK on behalf of The Times found that over 50% did not contain the level of CBD announced on the label. Around half of the products also contained trace levels of the psychoactive THC element – though so little that there would be no chance of users feeling any kind of effect. Despite the tiny amounts of THC present, this would still make the products illegal as UK law prohibits any concentration of THC in products.
Presumably pre-empting tighter restrictions in the future as well as assuring consumers of quality, a group of the larger manufacturers selling CBD products in the UK are applying for European licenses. They also want to introduce an industry body for legal compliance and quality control that would operate similar to the kitemark standard. The Centre for Medical Cannabis trade body is organising a charter that will involve all signatories testing their products at accredited laboratories to a universal standard that will show they have no detectable concentration of THC and the stated level of CBD concentration.
Meeting the standards that will enable manufacturers to claim they are selling a regulated product will, however, be relatively expensive and likely to drive many of the myriad of smaller ‘cottage industry’ producers out of the market. Commenting on the development The Centre of Medical Cannabis’s Andy Yates said:
“The doors have closed for the manufacturers that claim the rules are somehow different for the cannabis industry. This new initiative exists to ensure consumers can access legal, safe and quality CBD products.”