CBD Laws in Europe: Legislation at EU and national levels

Legal situation of CBD in Europe

We are now at the start of a new journey that began in January 2019 when the European Commission changed the Novel Food Catalog entry for cannabinoids. Novel foods are defined as foods that were not used to any significant extent for human consumption in the European Union before May 15, 1997.

Until this decision was made, only fortified CBD was considered a novel food. Now a new entry cannabinoids has been created, which classifies all hemp extracts as novel. The entry of Cannabis sativa L. was also changed, and only products derived from seeds were considered food. The leaves and blossoms were left in a “gray area”.

The change, in the form of a non-binding recommendation from the European Commission to the Member States, was disapproved by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), which called the measure “unnecessary, illogical and illegal” and claimed that many European countries were taking “disproportionate and unjustified” measures taken, although hemp extracts are neither formally nor legally prohibited.

In 1998 the industry received a letter from the EU's PAFF Standing Committee promoting many business decisions for the next twenty years. So this decision of January 2019 marked the beginning of an important change in legislation in the member states. At the level of the European Union, CBD was previously considered an unauthorized new food.

Unfortunately, this has now become a reality, because the European Commission has changed its preliminary assessment of CBD oil (cannabidiol oil). She now realizes that the substance is not a narcotic. This change of opinion follows a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), according to which CBD oil cannot be regarded as a narcotic.

Like any other legal product, CBD products should now be able to circulate between member states. CBD “can be classified as a food”, according to the European Commission in a letter published in November 2020. On the same day, the United Nations Narcotics Commission re-added cannabis to the list. That means the new decade will bring tremendous growth to the CBD industry.

Changes to the EU definition

So far, CBD has never been listed as a dietary supplement in the EU, making the gray area of ​​European legislation even grayer. The relevant EU legislation in the field of food supplements is Directive 2002/46 / EC, but the use of substances other than vitamins or minerals in the manufacture of food supplements may be regulated by national regulations or subject to other specific EU legislation.

The European Commission has changed its preliminary assessment of CBD oil (cannabidiol oil). She now realizes that the substance is not a narcotic. The change of opinion follows a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), according to which CBD oil cannot be regarded as a narcotic.

Like any other legal product, CBD products should be able to circulate between member states. CBD "can be classified as a food," said the European Commission in a letter published on Wednesday. The United Nations Narcotics Commission lifted the classification of cannabis on the same day.

“Both the European Commission's and the UN's decision to release CBD oil are very important to the entire hemp industry. Especially since there is still a lot of repression against the use of CBD oil in Europe. "

Court ruling on hemp extracts:

Here is the verdict.

“It should also be noted that two scientific studies submitted by OHIM found that cannabis, also known as“ hemp ”, can be found in various forms (oils, herbal teas) and in various preparations (teas, pasta, baked goods) in the food sector and cookies, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, etc.) is used. This is confirmed by the documents submitted by the intervener, which show that hemp is used in the manufacture of certain foods and beverages.

The toxicological analyzes carried out on these goods showed that they contained a very low concentration of THC, well below the above threshold of 0,2%, and that they had no psychotropic effects.

Finally, contrary to what the applicant claims, it follows from Article 4 of Directive 88/388 that the use of flavorings which do not contain any element or substance in toxicologically dangerous quantities is permitted.

Contrary to what the applicant claims, these findings show, on the one hand, that the term "cannabis" does not only refer to drugs and certain therapeutic substances, and on the other hand that hemp is lawfully used in the manufacture of food and beverages. "

“The Europe-wide 'witch hunt' on CBD-producing companies should be abolished immediately. In the past, many of these manufacturers have been under legal pressure for labeling their hemp extracts as food. "

Since this food is nothing new, it should not be more regulated than other foods if it is within the legal framework. Food safety standards have always been around and they have never been controversial. But hemp extract from European industrial hemp is probably the most reviewed food ever:

Farmers need to constantly monitor THC levels. In order to be harvested legally, the THC content must be within the legal limits.

Declaring CBD, CBG and other cannabinoids as “novel” only seems to be a market entry barrier for every organic farmer in Europe. Their only goal is to keep the small players in the market away from the big boys' playing field.

The food safety standards were met by the European manufacturers of CBD oil long before CBD was retrospectively declared a novel food in 2019. But this fact has hit the entire - still young - CBD industry. "

Aside from the implications for the novel food approval process, the U-turn by the European Commission on CBD is creating the conditions for clarification of national laws and regulations affecting CBD, where necessary, for wider acceptance of CBD oil on the market Market leading to potentially rapid growth and further investment in the sector.

CBD oil products have been readily available in Europe for years, but unclear regulations have created enforcement problems for some shopkeepers and manufacturers in many countries. Brave investors have long been invested in CBD oil in Europe, but now that basic regulations are in place, even more might be more inclined to do so.

We will now go through some details of the legislation as it has been applied in the EU member states so far.

What is the CBD / THC Legislation in Italy?

Some of the measures that European countries are now taking can be illustrated by a resolution recently adopted by the Agriculture Commission in the Italian Parliament. It proposes increasing the THC content in industrial hemp, which comes from EU varieties, from 0,2 to 0,3%.

This would mean an alignment with the rest of the world market, as the permitted THC content in CBD products in North America and Australia is 0,3%. In addition, a regulation is required for the sale of dried, chopped or pelleted biomass of the entire plant or its parts, the THC content of which does not exceed 0,2%. There are currently no guidelines in Italy for CBD or THC limits in relation to food, and the resolution calls for these to be set.

In practice, some Italian companies have started to register CBD hemp flower products as animal feed to avoid leaving leaves and flowers in the “gray area” and to avoid further regulatory confusion. However, the registration of pure cannabinoids such as CBD extracts as animal feed is not permitted. CBD for animal feed is also banned.

The Italians are not alone with this new practice. Following the change in novel foods, many European companies have addressed the problem by relabelling their products.

Austrian biotech company CannHelp recalled all of its CBD-based oils, foods and cosmetics. The company has relabelled the oils so that they are now classified as "aromatic products" and are back on the shelves as such.

What is the CBD / THC legislation like in Germany?

The German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) banned CBD in foods and dietary supplements in March 2019. Products containing cannabidiol are prohibited unless they have been approved as medicinal products or novel food.

Starting in April, a series of raids were carried out on Nordic Oil and other German companies in which their CBD-containing products were confiscated. The simultaneous searches affected a number of stores selling CBD products. Bavaria is considered the toughest German state when it comes to cannabinoids, but also in other parts of the country, e.g. B. in Hamburg, stores were reportedly searched on suspicion of drug trafficking.

The largest market for CBD sales in Europe is Germany, where sales of 1,8 billion euros are expected by the end of the year.

CBD oil is becoming a novel food in Spain

The legal status of CBD oil in Spain has recently changed. The cannabis market in Spain is a mix of Spanish and foreign companies selling seeds, fertilizers, hemp-infused beers, and CBD tinctures, oils and creams. The distributors, manufacturers, grow shops and online retailers operate in a gray market that allows them to sell as long as they adhere to certain rules.

In Spain, no product may be sold that contains CBD oil as one of its ingredients if the THC content is above 0,2%. This prohibition is in line with international law. In addition, all seeds for hemp cultivation must come from the approved European hemp seed catalog.

In April 2019, the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition (AECOSAN) published a guide stating that CBD oils, whether of natural or synthetic origin, as well as extracts and other parts of the Cannabis sativa L. ( Flowers, leaves and stems) are considered novel foods.

THC is classified as a narcotic in Sweden

In June, the Swedish Supreme Court ruled that CBD oil, which contains low levels of THC, should be classified as a narcotic. The court also rejected the Swedish Medical Products Authority's proposal to place products for oral consumption or inhalation containing cannabidiol under the Medicines Act.

Industrial hemp is exempt from Swedish anti-drug legislation, and it only applies to plants, not products. Since 2017, eight companies that sell CBD oil as a dietary supplement have been banned from selling their products by the Swedish Medicines Agency. Sweden also leads the EU Member States in terms of the number of CBD notifications submitted through the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). Of the 35 reports, 14 come from Sweden.

Polish tax classification for CBD oils

In Poland, CBD oils are taxed in the same group as edible oils and margarine and are therefore subject to a VAT rate of 5%, while medical cannabis is subject to a tax rate of 23%. According to local reports, the Supreme Health Bureau and Police have stepped up their enforcement efforts against retail stores selling CBD products. In more than 20 Polish CBD stores, the goods were seized by law enforcement agencies.

Cannabis as “another smoking tobacco” in Belgium

Another piece of news in European legislation came from Belgium in May when the Public Finance Service (FPS Finance) issued a notice clarifying that "herbal smoke products containing CBD and some THC" are legal and should be used Belonged to the category of "other smoking tobacco".

She defined the products as dried hemp flowers that are tobacco-free and can be consumed by incineration if they contain no more than 0,2% THC. The Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment Agency (HFCSE) urged manufacturers to contact the authorities before placing a herbal smoke product on the market. This step entails a tax of around 30% and an additional 21% VAT on hemp flowers.

CBD in Europe: Ukraine and Slovakia - Virtually illegal

Ukraine left its THC level at 0,08% (for seed and fiber production) and Slovakia is the only country in the European Union where CBD and THC are still illegal.

In Slovakia only the cultivation of industrial hemp varieties approved in the EU with a THC content of less than 0,2% is legal, and this is not allowed to be cultivated for the production of CBD. The local pharmaceutical industry is trying to get approval for the development and manufacture of cannabinoid-based drugs in both states.

Romania: According to the criminal law

In Romania, every consumer product made from cannabis is criminally controlled. However, a 2019 report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction shows that herbs, oils and e-liquid are available in the Romanian market.

CBD in Europe: Bulgaria wants to adopt CBD regulation

Not all EU member states have announced the enforcement of novel guidelines for the CBD food catalog, and there are unconfirmed reports that Bulgaria recently granted a license that would allow the sale of CBD foods.

CBD “soft drug” in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, the largest European hemp producer, has a legal framework derived from the Opium Act introduced in 1912 and amended in 1976 when the distinction between “hard” and “soft” drugs was introduced. Under this law, CBD is not legal but is tolerated as a soft drug.

The Opium Act was changed in 1999 when hemp, which is produced exclusively for the fiber hemp market and has a THC content of less than 0,2%, was legalized. The manufacture of CBD oils is still illegal as the production of plant extracts is banned, so the hemp is produced in the Netherlands and then processed abroad.

In addition, according to Dutch law, the THC content in CBD products may not exceed 0,05%. CBD isolates and THC extracts are prohibited for sale to the public, but allowed for export.

Switzerland 1% THC

In Switzerland, the legal THC content is 1%. In 2011, Switzerland increased the limit value, which defines how the cannabis plant is classified according to the Narcotics Act, from 0,3% to 1% THC. The number of cannabis products on offer that contain CBD has increased since mid-2016 when a company marketed a large amount of a “low THC” cannabis product that was regulated as a “tobacco substitute” with appropriate health warnings and tax rates.

As soon as the information spread that products with a THC content of less than 1% are not subject to legal cannabis controls in Switzerland, the marketing of these low-THC cannabis products increased.

Great Britain - CBD legal as a novel food

In the UK, the largest CBD market in Europe, THC is listed as a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. CBN (cannabinol) and CBDV (cannabidivarin) are also class B controlled substances.

Only CBD in its pure form is not listed as a controlled substance. Growing your own cannabis and hemp is permitted with a UK Home Office license for licensed medical distributors or companies that sell nutritional supplements. CBD products sold as dietary supplements must be labeled as per the Dietary Supplements Regulation of 2003. The sale of hemp flowers and buds is prohibited.

CBD extracts and other products made from them are considered novel foods and require approval. As we learned from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), there are currently no novel food approved CBD extracts in the UK and the products on the market are in breach of novel food regulations.

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