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European Commission Considers Reclassifying CBD as a Narcotic

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jul 21, 2020   
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The European Commission has paused over 50 applications from CBD companies hoping to acquire a “novel food” status for their products.

The adjourn follows the Commission’s decision to review whether such hemp-produced CBD should be classified as a narcotic or a psychotropic.


The EU considers any food novel if it hasn’t been consumed to “a significant degree” by humans in Europe before 15 May 1997, when the regulations were introduced.

Back in January last year, the European Commission announced that products containing cannabis extracts should be considered as novel foods, and so shouldn’t be sold without further testing and authorization from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).

Yet, as reported by Food Navigator, over 50 existing novel food applications have now been halted while the Commission weighs up CBD’s safety. To help inform this decision, the Commission is welcoming insights from applicants until September.

If found to be worthy of the “narcotic” label, CBD will no longer be considered as a food by the European Commission, which may render hundreds of products illegal in the European market.

CBD in the UK

In the UK, CBD regulations were put into focus back in February of this year when the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked all CBD producers to apply for its own novel food authorization by March 31, 2021. Failure to do so could result in products being “taken off the shelves.”

Since the European Commission’s decision, the FSA has reportedly assured CBD companies in the UK that it will still be accepting applications from January 2021, once the Brexit transition period has come to an end. Many of these applications have been facilitated by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI).

“I'm surprised [the European Commission] have taken that decision. I think it's just too late,” Dr Parveen Bhatarah, the ACI’s regulatory lead, told Analytical Cannabis.

“However, I had long discussions with the FSA on that, [which] have views that we can't be party to the EU decision because of Brexit now, and [so] we are continuing with applications here in the UK. And, in fact, they are working at a pace to ensure that they will be able to review and validate applications in time themselves.”

“However, my view is that although I didn’t like their decision, the EU’s decision, on the other hand, I feel that is the absolute golden opportunity for UK to set the roadmap for the rest of the world for the CBD industry, and show the path for the future.”

The ACI recently launched a series of studies into CBD’s toxicology and bioavailability, in order to validate its safety in the eyes of regulators.


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