Sales of cannabis oil and CBD products – not as laidback as you might think

28th January 2021

We all know that cannabis is a controlled drug. But suddenly cannabis oil and cannabidiol (CBD) products seem to be on sale everywhere.  From online sales to the shelves of your local pharmacy, CBD is the latest wellness craze.

The ubiquity of CBD in oils, creams, gummies and even pet products, together with the online advice offered by sellers gives the impression that these products are legal and easy to sell. Consequently, entrepreneurs are leaping into the market with enthusiasm.

However, the laws applicable to CBD products are numerous and complex and online advice ranges from confusing via misleading to downright inaccurate.

Right now, in fact, there are no authorised CBD extracts or isolates on the market in England and Wales.

If you are already in the market or just thinking about entering it, leaving aside all the usual rules and regulations you need to comply with as a product manufacturer/supplier, with CBD products, in particular, you will need to stay on the right side of:

  • Trading standards
  • Food standards
  • Advertising standards
  • Medicinal and healthcare product safety
  • Misuse of drugs laws

You need to completely understand your obligations on the technical data of your products’ constituents, ingredient safety, product labelling, restrictions on health claims and, where appropriate, imports and exports.

If you have not done so already, you need to apply for authorisation of your product’s CBD extracts and isolates. This is the only route to compliance for CBD products. Most often, the applicant will be the manufacturer, but trade bodies and suppliers can also apply.

Businesses need to submit, and have fully validated, novel food authorisation applications by 31 March 2021. After this date, only products for which the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a valid application and were on the market on 13 February 2020 will be allowed to remain on the market.

FSA has advised local authorities that businesses can continue to sell their existing CBD products during this time, provided they are not incorrectly labelled, are not unsafe and do not contain substances that fall under drugs legislation. However, no new CBD extracts or isolates, including new brands, should be sold until they have the necessary authorisation.

The 31 March 2021 deadline applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Novel foods regulations in Scotland are covered by Food Standards Scotland.

If entrepreneurs are keen to press on but need guidance, Ruth Sheret can help.  Alternatively, if the risks now seem too high but you are bound into a supply contract, Ruth and HCR’s commercial team can help you extricate yourself.

The advice contained in this article is correct as at January 2021.

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