Cannabidiol, or CBD— in case you haven’t already heard the chorus singing it’s praises, is the second most commonly found cannabinoid in cannabis and hemp plants. It is responsible for a host of physiological responses that could have some amazing applications, but unlike cannabis’s primary active compound THC, CBD does not cause any psychoactive effects.
Cannabidiol is already of great interest to many consumers and entrepreneurs as new studies continue to show its potential benefits. This has created an exploding CBD industry in Europe and around the world and has opened the doors for companies like Harmony to create and distribute a wide variety of CBD products.
But there’s a problem
Unlike THC and any plant containing it, CBD is not specifically mentioned under the individual Narcotics Acts of any European country, and is not considered a controlled substance under European law. This is great, because it means companies can produce and distribute CBD products derived from non-psychoactive hemp (which must contain less than 0.2% THC) and provide consumers access to an extremely useful cannabinoid.
However, on the flipside, it means that CBD products are not currently subject to any standard regulations. This leaves consumers with no legal protection or guarantees about the product they are purchasing. While many high-quality CBD producers are meticulous in their production methods (like Harmony!), the current, ambiguous patchwork-regulations allow for huge variations in the quality, strength and even safety of CBD products available on the market. Products are not subject to testing and CBD producers are currently given little guidance on dosage, labelling, and the necessary information they should provide to their consumers. Given the exponential growth rate of the CBD industry in the last few years, members of the industry have begun to recognise the lack of standardisation as a problem and have decided to speak out about the need for regulation.
The EIHA position
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is a professional alliance that represents the interests of hemp farmers and producers both within individual countries and on a European level. Their members come from 31 nations and span several hemp-related industries.
At the end of 2016, the organisation released an official position paper on the need for CBD regulations in Europe. At the time of the statement’s release, major pharmaceutical companies both in Germany and the UK were pushing for CBD to become a prescription drug which they, of course, would own the rights to in the respective countries they were petitioning. The EIHA statement speaks strongly in opposition to their efforts, which it claims would greatly restrict access for consumers and destroy a budding industry for the profit of a few.
The paper argues for the development of “harmonised legislation in the field [of CBD] to make sure that consumers are protected, to sustain the industry’s current double-digit growth rate, to attract new investors and to boost product development.” It uses cited reports illustrating the cannabinoid’s safety as evidence against the need for harsh restrictive measures, and goes on to propose a regulatory system based on the quantity of CBD a product contains.
The statement also suggests that in addition to a basic regulatory framework determined by daily dosage, route of administration, indication area, maximum recommended daily dose, and pack size, all products should be standardised to help ‘fine-tune’ regulations and provide further consumer safety.
The EIHA paper proposes that regulation be carried out as a three-tiered system determined by dosage.
The first tier of the proposed system discusses how ‘high dosages’ of CBD, which the statement defines as containing a suggested intake of more than 200mg daily, should be treated. The EIHA believes doses at this level are defined as use for medicine, and thereby should be treated the same as any other medicine on the market. The statement suggests that products with medicinal concentrations of CBD should be available at any pharmacy in Europe either by prescription or over the counter.
The second tier of EIHA’s proposal suggests that products containing medium concentrations of CBD, which they define as a recommended dosage of 20-200mg per day, are not supplying a ‘medicinal level’ of CBD and therefore should be available without a prescription. The statement suggests that within this range of concentration, CBD should be regulated similarly to other dietary supplements. The report likens the proposed treatment of this tier to the current regulation of supplements like valerian and gingko biloba.
The third tier of the EIHA’s proposed regulatory system suggests that products containing low concentrations of CBD, or less than 20mg per daily recommended dose, should be allowed for use in food products without the need for regulatory restrictions. This section of the proposal is working to protect the emerging industry by allowing the many producers already creating and distributing a host of CBD products to continue, but lowering the permitted dosage in food products to levels that guarantee the safety of consumers. The report also includes topical CBD products, used in applicable fields like cosmetics, in this tier of their proposed regulatory system.
Although the likelihood that EU governments will fully adopt a regulatory system suggested by an industry activist group is fairly slim, there are many great ideas in the EIHA statement that both national governments and the European Commission could take away with them when creating their legislation. One thing has become very clear however; CBD’s momentum is not slowing down anytime soon. That means regulations are necessary to protect both consumers and producers and to ensure the quality and safety of CBD products.
We at Harmony are in agreement with the EIHA’s stance. We sincerely hope that whatever legislation our leaders choose will improve safety and standardisation without restricting access of CBD for consumers and will continue to allow producers and researchers the freedom they need to explore the full potential of this amazing chemical.