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Why the EU Is Wrong About CBD

The EU has categorized CBD as a “novel” food because regulators don’t understand the plant.

With CBD’s meteoric rise in popularity, regulatory bodies around the world are struggling to work out the way to regulate this seemingly new substance. Within us, outgoing FDA Scott Gottlieb has admitted that there’s no straightforward path to regulating CBD. European regulators face similar struggles.

Recently, the ECU Food Safety Authority issued a memo declaring that it considered CBD a “novel food” additive which any product containing CBD must gain approval before being sold within the European Union (EU). Although regulatory agencies are cautious naturally, the choice by the EU to classify CBD as a completely unique food was an error, and here’s why.

First, it’s important to know what the EU considers a “novel” food. Consistent with EU Regulation 2015/2283, a completely unique food is defined as “food that wasn’t used for human consumption to a big degree within the Union before 15 May 1997, regardless of the dates of accession of the Member States to the Union.”

Why the EU is Wrong About CBD.

In the EU’s Novel Food Catalogue entry for CBD, it says that “Cannabis sativa L., extracts of marijuana L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This is applicable to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they’re added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil).”

Under the EU’s Novel Food Catalogue, hemp flower products like hemp seed oil are exempt from the novel food classification. This is often a critically important distinction that fundamentally undermines CBD’s novel food status. Consistent with a deeply detailed paper written by the cannabis activist Richard Rose, hemp seed oil often contains detectable amounts of THC — enough that often using hemp seed oil could cause someone who doesn’t otherwise consume cannabis to inadvertently fail a drug test. Hemp seed oil contains THC because hemp seeds are often coated in resin produced by the hemp flower. When cold-pressed into oil, cannabinoids contained within the resin is transferred into the oil.

As hemp contains an approximate 30:1 ratio of CBD to THC, it stands to reason that hemp seed oil would also contain CBD. If hemp flower products have a demonstrated long use in Europe, and if hemp flower products like hemp seed oil contain CBD, then CBD must also fall into the EU’s novel food exemption clause.

If CBD isn’t an additive to hemp seed oil, and if it falls under the novel food exemption, then concentrations of CBD should even be exempt from the EU’s novel food catalog also. Although one could argue that food and beverages infused with CBD should still fall into the novel food classification, at the very least hemp extracts containing CBD and CBD concentrates should still be exempt.

When it involves regulations, the devil is usually within the details. Unfortunately for the ECU Food Safety Authority, they appear to possess missed a rather large detail. Hopefully, with a touch education, EU regulators are often convinced of their error and move swiftly to correct this egregious mistake.

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