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New Cannabis Regulations to Become UK Law within 2 Years

By Leo Bear-McGuinness
Published: Sep 12, 2018   
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A new framework for regulating and licensing all UK cannabis and cannabinoid products has been announced by two UK government departments and the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), an advocacy group for CBD- and hemp-based products. The framework, named The Cannabis Products Directive (CPD), is progressing rapidly and has been translated and submitted to all 28-member states of the EU by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).

With this momentum and the backing of two UK government departments, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), it’s expected that the CPD will become UK law within the next two years.

This development comes at a disruptive time for UK cannabis regulations, as the drug has only recently been moved to a schedule 2 classification under the 2001 Misuse of Drugs Regulations act, allowing clinicians to prescribe it by the fall. The introduction of the CPD will continue this upheaval and relieve the UK Home Office of the cannabis regulation and licensing process, placing it in the hands of the CPD’s new regulatory body.

Breaking down the CTA, FSA, and MHRA

Representing over 300 businesses and 1200 registered sellers, the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) is Europe’s largest cannabis association by membership. With a goal to “change perceptions based around decades of misinformation and prejudice,” the group has worked with the UK government to further legislation and promote legal and ethical trade.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is a non-ministerial department of the UK government. It’s responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is an executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, which is responsible for ensuring the efficacy and safety of the country’s medicines and medical devices. Validating its efforts in cannabis safety regulations, the MHRA recently officially recognized the CTA by inclusion in its Guidance Note 8 ‘A guide to what is a medicinal product’.

What the CPD means for UK regulations

Together, these three organizations have created a new initiative, the Cannabis Products Directive (CPD). This framework will soon establish an independent regulatory body which will cover all parts of the cannabis supply chain from seeds to end products. It’s even already appointed its first Chief executive, Ms Fiona Pengilly.

CBD-based products are sold legally within in the UK as long as claims are not made about their medical benefits. It’s even been estimated that there are over 250,000 regular users of the substance in the UK. However, with medicinal cannabis to soon be available for prescription, the number of UK cannabis users will undoubtedly increase. The hope is that the CPD’s new regulatory body will safeguard this incoming group by enforcing strict safety regulations.

It will consist of five parts:

1. Food supplements and edibles
2. Vapes and inhaled products
3. Topicals, balms, and cosmetics
4. Medicinal cannabis
5. ‘Grow at home’

All CTA members are already working in accordance with the regulations outlined in parts 1 – 3. Parts 4 and 5 are new categories and will be introduced in accordance with legislation.

The CPD’s structure will be based on the Tobacco Products Directive, a successful directive of the European Union which places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco-related products in all EU countries.

To ensure consumer safety, the CPD proposes that all growers, producers, manufacturers, and sellers will have to be registered along with each individual product. Approved laboratories will conduct the testing and all registrants will be subject to regular inspection. Additionally, one CTA source has stated companies may have to pay “the princely sum of £10 per annum” for their license.

Each product will have a Cannabis Product Information File (CPIF) and an assigned ‘responsible person’ who will ensure that the product remains compliant and updates are made to the CPIF as required. Thus, it’s hoped that consumers will have trust in the products’ safety and know that they have been produced and tested in accordance with regulations.


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