CBD’s proliferation calls for oversight, says EU agency

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Levels of CBD in cannabis products should be closely monitored to protect public health, advises a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released yesterday.

“Having the ability to distinguish illicit cannabis products from cannabis-based medicinal products and unregulated CBD oils will be important for law enforcement in many jurisdictions,” EMCDDA said in the report – Developments in the European Cannabis Market.

Noting the rapid proliferation of cannabis products across the continent, EMCDDA said close monitoring of both THC and CBD for potency and potential health effects is “essential.”

The report identifies factors behind the growing presence of cannabis products, including policy developments, advances in production and extraction techniques, and a changing consumer landscape.

Dynamics of the market

“The dynamic nature of the current cannabis market and the diversification of cannabis products available bring considerable challenges,” said EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel. “New and more potent cannabis products may have serious public health consequences for users. Therefore, monitoring and understanding new trends in cannabis products available to European consumers today is important to inform the policy and regulatory debate.”

Legalization of recreational cannabis markets outside the EU is noted as driving development of new cannabis products, some of which are now appearing on the European market, the report noted.

EMCDDA drew particular attention to the growing prevalence of synthetic CBD, which mimic the effects of cannabis-derived CBD but may be far more potent. “Some of these are sold as ‘licit’ replacements for cannabis, however, some are now controlled internationally and/or under national legislation,” according to the report. More than 180 synthetic cannabinoids have been reported to the EMCDDA since such a substance was first detected in Europe in 2008, the agency said.

Concentrates underscored

The report said tools to monitor these products and their health effects are needed at national and European levels – emphasizing that such regimes focus particularly on concentrates derived from cannabis.

Cannabis remains widely used in Europe. Some 17.5 million young Europeans (15–34 years) are estimated to have used cannabis in the last year (EU-28), according to EMCDDA. Around 1% of adults (15–64 years) in the EU are estimated to be daily, or almost daily, cannabis users.

In addition to CBD, the report cited the growth of cannabis edibles, medicinal and health-oriented products in calling for increased monitoring.

The report said data provided by EU Member States show that the THC concentration of cannabis products found in Europe over the last decade has increased, raising concerns about potential harm. The estimated mean potency of marijuana doubled from 5% to 10% THC from 2006 to 2016, and cannabis resin (hash) potency increased from 8% to 17% THC.

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