Why the EU is wrong about CBD

With CBD’s meteoric rise in popularity, regulatory bodies around the world are struggling to figure out how to regulate this seemingly new substance. In the United States, outgoing FDA Scott Gottlieb has admitted that there was no straightforward path to regulating CBD, and in Europe, regulators are facing similar struggles.


Recently, the European Food Safety Authority issued a memo declaring that it considered CBD a “novel food” additive and that any product containing CBD must gain approval before being sold in the European Union (EU). Although regulatory agencies are cautious by nature, the decision by the EU to classify CBD as a novel food was a mistake, and here’s why:


Defining Novel Foods

Before discussing why the EU is wrong about CBD, it is important to understand what the EU considers a novel food. According to EU Regulation 2015/2283, a novel food is defined as “food that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 15 May 1997, irrespective 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 Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are 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 a critically important distinction that fundamentally undermines CBD’s novel food status.


According to an incredibly detailed paper written by the cannabis activist Richard Rose, hemp seed oil often contains detectable amounts of THC. In fact, regularly using hemp seed oil could unintentionally cause someone to fail a drug test. The reason why hemp seed oil contains THC is that hemp seeds are often coated in resin produced by the hemp flower, and when cold pressed into oil, that resin’s cannabinoids get 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 under the EU’s novel food exemption clause.


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


When it comes to regulations, the devil is always in the details. Unfortunately for the European Food Safety Authority, they seem to have missed a rather large detail. Hopefully, with a little education, EU regulators can be convinced of their error and move swiftly to correct this egregious mistake.

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