Two UK groups are off CBD advisory board amid turmoil over guidance for the sector

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A UK advisory board on CBD was scheduled to meet today amid turmoil that has left members representing two trade bodies no longer a part of the panel.

Kyle Esplin of the Scottish Hemp Association (SHA) and Charles Clowes, Director of the UK’s Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) were either removed from the Secretariat Advisory Board (SAB) to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on CBD or resigned, according to conflicting statements released Monday.

The commotion emerged following publication of an industry guidance proposal released to HempToday by Esplin two weeks ago that suggested a radical shift in strategy for regulation of the UK CBD sector. Most thorny is a recommendation that the UK government abandon the current system for approving CBD products through the Food Safety Agency’s regime for new or “novel” foods, and in its place institute a food-safety system based on certificates of analysis (COAs), which was among several policy proposals.

CTA complains

The proposal’s release drew criticism from SAB member the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), whose executive directors, Marika Graham-Woods and Sian Phillips, suggested in a statement released Monday that the proposal was an “incomplete draft document.”

“The CTA has not changed position relating to Novel Foods nor have we made a U-turn,” according to the CTA statement, which claimed Esplin and Clowes were “ejected from the SAB.”

In a letter also released yesterday, Esplin said he resigned from the board following Clowes’ resignation last week.

In addition to CTA and the Scottish association, other groups listed on the final page of the draft proposal as, presumably, parties to the APPG SAB were: The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC), the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the British Hemp Alliance (BHA) and the Cannabis Services Advisory Board (Jersey). SHA and the CIC are no longer among that group.

UK CBD company Savage Cabbage, the exclusive UK distributor of products from U.S.-based Charlotte’s Web, is the only private company among proposed signatories listed in the original recommendations released June 8.

‘Mandate’ lacking

London-based Tenacious Labs, a private CBD company, serves as secretariat of the APPG SAB, which claims representation among lawmakers and more than 700 companies among those in various official UK cannabis bodies.

In his resignation letter, Esplin said that while positions based in part on guidance from the Cannabis Industries Council do not have the SAB’s support, alternative recommendations have yet to be put forth.

“I have been asking for answers to explain changed positions, and, what we should be aiming for if the original aims of the CIC are no longer supported,” Esplin said in his letter.

“No other points have been put forward by my colleagues in Cannabis Trades Association, European Industrial Hemp Association or Cannabis Industry Council regarding a mandate, and the default position from here is to give 100% support to a report due by the Secretariat on July 21st,” Esplin wrote.

Concerns over transparency

Suggesting that position is unacceptable, Esplin said he is “unable to support Tenacious Labs as the single point of contact for government for the APPG for CBD products,” citing “concerns of a lack of transparency in the (APPG) process.”

For its part, CTA said: “We fully support the SAB and believe that there must be unity in order to advance the UK’s cannabis and hemp industries. Without this, we risk a fragmented future that doesn’t work in the interests of all stakeholders.

“Regrettably, Mr. Esplin has neither apologised nor retracted his actions or statements,” and “continues to rail against the CTA and what we stand for on behalf of our members,” the CTA executive directors said in their statement.

Who is Tenacious Labs?

Tenacious Labs, which is reported to be funding the APPG’s administration, was founded in early 2021. The company makes CBD wellness products under the Press Pause, Hoo Raa and Aux brands and also makes products containing Psilocybin.

Tenacious CEO Nick Morland announced earlier this month the company is moving its headquarters to Jersey which, unlike the UK, permits proceeds from cannabis products in all forms provided they are legal in the destination country. The company said it will produce THC products in Colorado, USA, where it owns contract CBD maker SZM Hemp and female wellness brand Press Pause, both of which it acquired last year.

Morland told the Financial Times moving to Jersey is a necessary step for expanding the business.

“We are a far more attractive investment proposition headquartered in Jersey than in London as it currently stands,” Morland said.

Delarki, Tenacious’ parent company, is headed by Morland and Adrian Clarke, who also serves as COO in Tenacious. Morland is a chartered accountant with a background in private equity, commodities and finance, and experience in the London international insurance market. Clarke is an investor and entrepreneur who has worked in the food and beverage sectors.

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