Czech government halts planned ban and will reconsider CBD rules

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The Czech government has halted a planned ban and will further study regulations for CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids, reversing a policy announced late last month.

“We have agreed that the upcoming measure regulating the sale of CBD will not come into force now,” according to Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who said a working group has now started a review intended to develop “clear and predictable rules” for the compound.

Under the vacated ban, all cannabinoid-containing food and dietary supplements, and cosmetics containing hemp-derived cannabinoids, would have been ordered off the market. The Ministry had said it was following a strict interpretation of EU rules which designate CBD as a new or “novel” food that must pass safety checks by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Such products have yet to undergo those checks although EFSA has started an evaluation process.

Industry win

Ceding to industry pushback, the Prime Minister said the ban would have meant “a major complication for users of this substance and for a number of Czech entrepreneurs.”

CBD is sold in the Czech Republic in such forms as oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies and other edibles, and is in many health and beauty products on the market. 

The European Commission ruled in December 2020 that CBD is not a narcotic and can be classified as a food if it meets relevant provisions in EU food legislation. The ruling also declared that CBD products should enjoy the same free movement of goods between and among member states as other legal products.

That led EFSA to start reviewing various forms of CBD to approve them for EU markets under rules for novel foods. As that review unfolds, however, EFSA has observed that research currently available on the effect of CBD on the liver, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, nervous system, and psychological well-being is insufficient.

Was HHC a trigger?

The proposed ban could have been prompted by the appearance of HHC, a synthetic psychoactive compound that mimics the “high” of marijuana, which is made by putting CBD through a “semi-synthetic” process. The Czech Republic has been identified as one of 20 or more EU countries where HHC products have shown up, prompting health warnings from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The government issued warnings about HHC in March, urging consumers to stay away from the products because of potential health risks.

In addition to local stakeholder pushback, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) had criticized the Czech government for failing to consider hemp extracts with naturally occurring levels of cannabinoids as traditional food.

Three tiers proposed

EIHA has called for EU-wide policy that would set a three-tier safety system that would place CBD in categories for traditional food, novel foods and medicines, depending on concentration. 

While isolate and enriched extracts should be considered novel food, full spectrum extracts containing natural levels of cannabinoids (non-enriched extracts) should be considered traditional foods that do not require pre-market authorization, the association has argued. 

EIHA called on the Czech government to render “a balanced, historically accurate, and transparent decision on the topic of the marketing of hemp extract.”

“We will find a solution together that will benefit everyone,” said Czech Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Bartoš who, along with Minister of Agriculture Zdeněk Nekula, was in the talks which led to halting the ban on CBD.

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