European Commission reverses position: CBD not a narcotic

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The European Commission has reversed its preliminary assessment on CBD, and said the compound is not a narcotic. The reversal comes in the wake of a judgment in which the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that CBD cannot be regarded as narcotic, and that CBD products should enjoy the same free movement of goods between and among member states as other legal products. CBD “can be qualified as food,” the European Commission further stated in a letter released Wednesday.

Coming on the same day the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs rescheduled cannabis, Daniel Kruse, President of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) said of the EC’s turnabout: “The second decision of this week is even more important for the hemp industry.”

Commission’s letter

Wednesday’s letter was sent to EIHA Project GmbH, a consortium established by EIHA to support its members who produce and sell CBD.

In the letter, the Commission said: “In light of the comments received from applicants and of the recent Court’s judgment in case C-663/184, the Commission has reviewed its preliminary assessment and concludes that cannabidiol should not be considered as drug within the meaning of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 in so far as it does not have psychotropic effect. As a consequence, cannabidiol can be qualified as food, provided that also the other conditions of Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No178/2002 are met.

EIHA’s novel food consortium aims to clear the way for hemp foods and extracts – including CBD – in European Union member states by meeting safety standards for new (“novel”) foods. The Association formed the consortium as a way to reduce the cost of the novel food approval procedure to its members.

“Now that CBD is classified as a food, we are perfectly positioned with our novel food applications from the EIHA consortium to approve CBD as a novel food,” said Lorenza Romanese, EIHA’s Managing Director. “We will finally achieve safety standards and assessments for our growing industry.

The consortium has novel food applications pending, which had been held up by the European Commission’s earlier “preliminary assessment” naming CBD a narcotic. With the reversal of that position, the consortium’s applications may now move ahead, according to the letter: “We hereby inform you that the verification of the validity of your application is therefore resumed,” Bruno Gautrais Head of Unit at the Directorate General for Health & Food Safety, wrote to Antonio Conto of the EIHA Project GmbH consortium.

The EIHA, in an email to members announcing the development, said the consortium will continue with toxicological and other tests to prove the safety of CBD.

“The decision of the EU Commission is groundbreaking for our industry,” said Kruse, on a day that saw two historic developments advancing cannabis. “As President of the EIHA and a pioneer in the hemp industry for 26 years now, I would like to express my sincere thanks to both the UN and our European Commission for these great Christmas presents,” Kruse said.

Chaos averted

The Commission’s preliminary finding this past summer held that non-medical CBD and other natural hemp extracts made from hemp flowers – frequently present in hemp food, food supplements and cosmetics – should be considered narcotics in the EU. But the European high court’s recent decision that CBD is not a narcotic is binding on EU institutions including the Commission. Hemp stakeholders had feared chaos for the sector if the Commission had not been moved to change its position.

Beyond its effect on the novel food approval process, the EC’s reversal on CBD sets the stage for clarification of national laws and regulations affecting CBD where necessary, broader acceptance of CBD in the marketplace leading to potentially fast growth, and continued investment in the sector. CBD products have been readily available in Europe for years, but unclear rules have caused law enforcement problems for some shop owners and producers in many countries. Bold investors have long been in CBD in Europe, but more may now be inclined to do so with fundamental regulations in place.

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