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European Commission Is Considering Classifying CBD As A Narcotic


As if the confusion over Novel food in the EU was not daunting enough! The news just surfaced late last week that the European Commission has delayed 50 CBD-related Novel food applicants through September to consider the question of whether CBD extracted from the plant should be considered a narcotic.

The directive only applies to food items containing naturally occurring CBD and not synthetic cannabidiol.

Novel food regulations in the EU apply to any products not widely consumed before 1997.

If the EC qualifies hemp plants, even with less than 0.2% as a narcotic (the amount of THC allowed in hemp and as set by the region’s regulators, then the entire conversation has entered the next loopy diversion.

For the past several years, European level conversation about hemp has led to a strange stand-off between regional regulators and individual countries who have continued down the path of greater access and normalization. Namely, as of now, the (non-binding) legal guidance on the status of hemp on the EU side of the Channel is that anything hemp oil-related that is not pressed from seeds (in other words from the flowers and leaves of the plant) is “Novel.”

This alone has been disruptive for the industry – including country-wide health departments and downstream, state, and municipal guidance based on the same. The City of Cologne, for example, just banned all CBD extracts not labeled as novel food. Depending on the Commission’s decision in September, this might be the conversation about all things CBD that is extracted in any way, from the plant that effectively bans CBD for sale across Europe.

Legalization Has Taken A Sideways Move In Europe

There are two reasons for the industry to be concerned. 

The first is that the entire CBD discussion is clearly going to be mired in this kind of ridiculous contretemps for some time to come – especially if the World Health Organization decides to reschedule THC in December. 

Even framing the conversation in the terms that it now is – namely is CBD Novel food or narcotic -  is also a particularly strange way to characterize a plant that has been in use for both medical and recreational purposes for more than a millennia.

Such an avenue of discussion is clearly intended to iron out the many wrinkles that still exist in reforming regulation. It is also clearly intended to throw havoc into the ever-evolving parallel conversation that is clearly on the drawing board here – namely recreational reform.

If every cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis sativa is a narcotic, the entire discussion will be thrown sideways into a regulatory no man’s land that will take a decade to get unstuck. It is doubtful that individual countries in Europe, starting with Luxembourg, will allow that to happen, or to wait that long. Much less the nascent industry.

For more updates on the evolving European cannabis space, stay tuned to this blog and be sure to book your tickets to the International Cannabis Business Conference when it returns to Europe.