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New Trade Association Launched in the UK to Lead CBD Industry Regulation

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Nov 08, 2019   
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Five months on from the release of their landmark industry report, “CBD in the UK,” the London-based Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) has announced the launch of a new trade organization at its CBD Summit.

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) has been launched as a platform designed to bring together businesses and industry experts who are committed to “fostering a legally compliant, socially responsible and innovative CBD industry, which puts customers’ safety first.”

The ACI is championing a new quality charter and the introduction of a new kitemark that it hopes will help to improve the quality of hemp and cannabinoid products in the UK.


Towards a safe, well regulated industry

The ACI’s charter is central to the association’s aim of improving the UK’s CBD market, and was first published at the CBD Summit.

The quality charter is composed of seven pillars:

  • Legal frameworks
  • Testing
  • Labelling
  • Manufacturing
  • Controlled drugs
  • Marketing ethics
  • Sustainability and social impact

Under the charter, signatories will be required to pursue all necessary authorizations for their products and to foster a good understanding of the laws and regulations in their sector. Signatories will also use validated, scientific testing methods to ensure their products are safe and of high-quality, as well as ensuring that all product packaging includes clearly labelled ingredient lists and no misleading or unethical marketing messages.

In turn, the ACI will provide guidance through the complex legal compliance pathway for gaining novel food authorization from the Food Standards Authority (FSA), through a partnership with the regulatory consultant Global Regulatory Services (GRS). The ACI also aims to introduce a first-of-its-kind kitemark, which will appear on the packaging of products that meet its standards for product quality, efficacy, and safety.

“There is no ambiguity in what the regulators want – they want fully legally compliant products on the market,” said Dr Andy Yates, the pharmacy lead at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, in a statement.

“This new initiative exists to ensure that our members are fully compliant to an agreed set of terms with the relevant regularly bodies, ensuring consumer can continue to access legal, safe and quality CBD products,” he continued. “Those who sign up to the ACI charter will need to put their products under intense, but necessary scrutiny, analyzing manufacturing process, assessing claims and using where required toxicology studies to prove a product is safe.” 

Sarah Gaunt from Global Regulatory Services, who will be partnering with the ACI to help deliver industry guidance, added, “we want to encourage companies to apply for authorization via a package of robust data that meets all the safety standards for a novel food. Supporting ACI members to do this is crucial – it’s a complex, lengthy, but absolutely vital process to ensure we have an industry based on high quality products.”

"This new ACI charter is the first step towards a legally compliant CBD industry which could become the gold standard for the rest of the world.”  


The problem with the UK’s CBD market

Having barely existed just three years ago, the UK’s CBD market has exploded onto the scene. An estimated 1.3 million consumers now spend over £300m annually on cannabinoid products.

So huge was the growth of the industry, that it outpaced regulation. A lack of standardized protocols for CBD product testing laboratories led to concerns that unsafe products might be finding their way to market.

These concerns became a concrete matter when the "CBD in the UK" report from the CMC revealed the market to be rife with compliance issues. Out of 30 popular UK brands tested for the report, less than 40 percent of the products were found to be within 10 percent of the CBD content advertised. One product didn’t contain any measurable amount of the advertised cannabinoid.

Worse still, nearly half of the products tested also contained measurable amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the intoxicating compound in cannabis – which would render the CBD product an illegal controlled substance. Legal guidance from the British Home Office states that, “if a CBD product contained any controlled cannabinoids, unintentionally or otherwise, then it is highly likely that the product would be controlled.”

These compliance issues not unique to the UK; the US Food and Drug Administration has sent numerous warning letters to American CBD companies for making unsubstantiated medical claims or using misleading advertising.

But it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure that the UK’s CBD market is brought into full compliance with best practices in testing and production to ensure the health and safety of consumers.

“It’s imperative that this industry has a robust, standard analytical testing method to measure cannabinoid content within different CBD-based products,” said Dr Parveen Bhatarah, the regulatory and compliance lead at the CMC, in a statement following the ACI launch.

“Any company in this space will no doubt have faced a number of problems when analyzing cannabis products. If there is no standardization, there is no recourse for companies or customers to question test results. The lack of standardization is hurting the industry's ability to present cogent arguments on key matters such as defining 'zero-detectable THC'; the CMC's efforts in addressing this broad-ranging subject is significant for the industry to move forward.” 

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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