Let’s clarify the latest national and EU legislative news.
After the latest rulings of the Italian Court of Cassation regarding food products containing cannabinoids, as well as the communication relating to the marketing of food products containing cannabinoids, we want to take stock of the situation on the use of products deriving from hemp plants.
At an economic level, hemp-based products and derivatives represent a non-negligible business both in Italy and Europe, where many member states have long legislated on using food products containing cannabinoids. However, the positions of the various legislators are conflicting and sometimes unclear, especially at levels of limits regarding the presence of the two principles, THC and CBD.
This also means that you can legally buy CBD extracts online at the best online CDB stores and fully enjoy cannabidiol’s benefits!
Cannabis’ active ingredients
But what makes marketing cannabinoid-containing food products so problematic? The plant, commonly known as Cannabis, generates a series of derivatives containing up to 60 cannabinoids, 100 terpenoids and 20 flavonoids. The two significant cannabinoids contained in Cannabis are THC or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD or Cannabidiol.
These compounds, among others, have caused cultural and legal debates over the decades about their negative and positive effects on the user and their pharmacological properties.
THC or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
THC is the best known and is mainly responsible for the psychoactive effects on the consumer (commonly known as the “high effect” caused by marijuana), which is why its presence makes Cannabis illegal and its derivatives in many countries.
The effects on the psyche are directly proportional to the intake concentrations and usually generate feelings of euphoria, relaxation, weighting and increased appetite. However, while considered a psychoactive compound, THC has also shown exciting properties in the medical field for therapeutic purposes against chronic diseases, offering pain relief without causing collateral damage over time.
CBD or cannabidiol
CBD (CAS number 13956-29-1) is a cannabinoid metabolite of Cannabis sativa that has properties other than the THC with which it is often associated. The main difference is that CBD is not a psychoactive compound and therefore does not cause any “high effect” on the consumer. This factor makes it interesting from a medical point of view as a potential therapist of chronic diseases. It has already shown positive applications in treating schizophrenia, social anxiety and depression. CBD also finds application in treating inflammation, migraines, and arthritis. And muscle spasms. However, the erroneous and familiar association with THC has slowed down its applications, and, in concert, the clinical trials are still in their infancy. However, CBD is considered safe and therefore legal from a sales and trade point of view and is affordable.
The legal situation in Europe
There are many EU member states in which the position of cannabinoid-based food products is not clear, but above all, there is a lack of a shared vision and a common approach on the part of legislators and control authorities.
The German situation appears most apparent from an official point of view. The BVL, the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, consider cannabinoid-containing food products as Novel Food because the CBD substance does not have significant historicity as food before 1997.
This highly precautionary approach leads to declaring in Germany that foods containing Cannabinoids, which are not regular and therefore their marketing, is not legally authorized unless the management procedure provided by EU Regulation 2015/2283 relating to new “novel food” foods is followed.
A further limiting factor to traditional marketing of food products containing cannabinoids is linked to the intrinsic properties of CBD or its effects on health. For example, CBD is credited as anxiolytic, antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, and sedative and possesses neuroprotective properties.
All these characteristics lead Germany to consider the cannabinoid CBD as a product subject to medical prescription (the obligation has been in force since 1/10/2016). The case of marketing food products containing cannabinoids without a medical prescription is possible without prejudice to objective evidence from the producer that the food (e.g. beer) does not possess the properties above.
Having said this, the marketing of food products containing cannabinoids remains not allowed despite cases already known and occasionally returned to the issue due to seizures by the authorities, resulting in acquittals.
In France, however, the marketing of food products containing cannabinoids does not have a clear legislative framework. The sector is therefore subject to periodic judicial measures, which are often concluded, also in this case, with the acquittal of the accused. Although hemp cultivation is authorized for industrial purposes, the subsequent use of inflorescences containing CBD for producing food products containing cannabinoids remains in the regulatory vacuum, creating uncertainty in the supply chain.
In the absence of a clear legislative framework, it is conceivable that France will also follow the German approach regarding the management of food products containing cannabinoids, i.e. the classification of these Novel Foods.
Legal CBD in the UK: Although, with Brexit at the gates, Great Britain still follows the dictates of the EU, the authorities’ approach towards food products containing cannabinoids is to consider them, also in this case, as Novel Food.
Therefore, without prejudice to products marketed before 14 May 1997, the consumption of which is authorized, food products containing cannabinoids placed on the market after the previous date are considered illegal if there is no formal authorization.
The Food Safety Authority (FSA) has not taken any official position. At the same time, a transition period will likely be granted for producers and sellers where no sanctions will be applied. However, without clear harmonized legislation, Great Britain will probably decide to ban the sale of cannabinoid-containing food products at the end of this time frame.
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