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UK Regulator Issues New Advice on THC Levels in CBD Products

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Dec 20, 2021   
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The UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has made a list of recommendations to the UK government on how to regulate the country’s growing CBD sector.

In a report published on Friday, December 17, the ACMD chiefly recommended that the total dose of THC and all other controlled cannabinoids should not exceed 50 micrograms (µg) per unit of consumption.

This recommendation and others have largely been welcomed by many in the UK’s CBD industry.

Total THC

Across Europe, most counties have agreed upon THC safety limits for commercial CBD products. Most hemp-derived food products sold within the European Union, for instance, are subject to the union’s safe THC limit of 0.001 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg).

But, having left the EU at the start of 2021, the UK is now without such EU THC safety limits for CBD products.

Efforts have been made to define new, UK-specific regulations; on January 11 this year, Kit Malthouse, the minister of state for crime and policing, wrote to the chair of the ACMD and recommended that, “the defined trace percentage in CBD products be set at a level which will be between 0.01% and 0.0001% by weight per controlled cannabinoid.”

But other limits have been suggested. Back in March, members from the UK’s Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), and the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group also wrote to the ACMD and recommended that the government enact a cap of 0.021 mg/kg of THC (and other cannabinol derivatives) per day. This limit would be equivalent to permitting 0.03 percent THC per the recommended 70 mg daily intake of CBD.

Now, after considering both proposals and hearing from other industry professionals, the ACMD has made its decision.

Its report list four recommendations:

  1. The total dose of THC and all other controlled cannabinoids should not exceed 50 µg per unit of consumption.
  2. Regulators (such as the UK’s Food Standards Agency, FSA) should ensure that no consumer CBD product exceeds 50 µg per unit of consumption.
  3. A lab comparison trial should be commissioned to test whether UK testing labs can reliably detect THC and other cannabinoids below the 50 µg per unit of consumption level.
  4. That development of more accurate tests for THC and other controlled cannabinoids is supported to allow testing capabilities to develop and be fully regulated.

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis, Dr Parveen Bhatarah, the regulatory and compliance lead at the ACI, gave her reaction to the ACMD’s recommendations.

ACMD’s report released today is certainly a step in the right direction. I am so pleased that ACMD team have accepted all our ACI recommendations, touching analytical, manufacturing, environment and economic aspects of the CBD industry.”

“Although, as a scientist the limit 50µg for Delta-9THC/single serving of CBD consumer product needs little more clarity. As it could be open to mis-interpretation without maximum limit or similar.”

“However, I do agree it has to be taken into account with the maximum daily limit of no more than 70mg/day for CBD by FSA.”


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