Hemp products including CBD are now considered Novel Food: what does this mean?
The ongoing updates in the medical marijuana niche have kept CBD users, industry researchers and the general public on their toes for a few years now, and the recent developments in classing hemp-derived products, including CBD, as a novel food, might be a step forward in the right direction.
First of all, what is novel food?
Novel food is, simply put, a type of consumable that undergoes a classing transformation. It mainly refers to the production history of a product that may not have been considered ‘consumable’ before by authorities or the majority of the public. But through popularity increases, independent use gains recognition for its edible status. CBD is now considered as a consumable product.
But finding its status as a novel food source was not an easy and straightforward task for CBD and other hemp-derived products. In order to reclassify a product, industry experts, who believe their product is an edible source, need to submit their data and go through a lengthy and specialised process to achieve the new classification desired.
The European Foods Safety Authority (EFSA) follows a number of criteria to identify which novel food applications hit the mark, and it’s clear to say that this process often results in a negative outcome. Some of the criteria the EFSA scans for include; the production process together with the stability of the product and its shelf life, the purity, toxicology and tolerance of the product in review as well as the recommended doses and intention of use for the product.
Seeing as CBD, and other hemp or cannabis products, are so closely linked to the negative reputation associated with recreational use of marijuana as an illegal drug, the EU’s stamp of approval on CBD as a novel food is a giant leap forward into the complete legalisation of the natural product.
So what does this mean for the medical cannabis industry?
Cannabidiol and cannabis entered the novel food sector due to their growth in popularity in the last 5 or so years, with constant updates and research strengthening the industry’s mission for a complementary form of relief for diseases and discomfort caused by cancer and chronic pain, to name but a few.
CBD was classified as a novel food in 2019, with EU backing as its main support system. But, there was a flaw in the system that posed a big threat and a multitude of questions for stockists and producers whose products were already on the market.
In order to keep their products on the market, all CBD manufacturers and distributors were encouraged to submit their authorisation forms by March 31st, 2021 – and seeing as the process of authorisation is quite a lengthy one, in reality, all such applications needed to be filled by January 1st 2021.
This monitoring process ensures that all CBD-containing products are safe for consumption and clearly labelled and marked with the recommended daily allowance, the dosage warnings and precise percentages of CBD and in some cases even THC. Other factors that need to be monitored before approval include the level of heavy metals found in the soil in which the cannabis plant was grown.
Even though monitoring of CBD products will be under intense scrutiny now that milestones, targets and statistics are all set in place, the positive side is that movement in recognising CBD’s benefits is well on its way. This will encourage new users to seek this form of alternative treatment and ensure that all existing CBD patients will be led by specialists who have a government-supported basis to rely on for factors such as dosage, product recommendation and other patient care aspects.
How and why did this change in the EU’s CBD rules take place?
The mission to remove CBD from the blacklisted standing it incorrectly held was always at the forefront of industry leaders’ minds, but a legal case concerning Kanavape’s cartridges led the company to a conviction in France, an 18-month jail sentence and a fine of €10,000.
The organic product itself is manufactured in the Czech Republic and transported to France for retail purposes. The marketing of this e-cigarette, containing CBD oil, was targeted and criminalised – based on CBD’s legal status of May 2020. But there was instant resistance surrounding these allegations, where the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stood in favour of CBD, confirming that CBD products, produced, sold or consumed, are not a justifiable cause for criminalization.
The major difference between CBD and THC, and the most misunderstood aspects of the two, tackle the pure chemical structure of the natural product. While CBD and THC both contain terpenes that identify the characteristics of the plant, they are entirely different cannabinoids that can both be found in the chemical structure of a cannabis plant.
These cannabinoids work with the naturally occurring endocannabinoid system in the human brain and produce therapeutic effects such as pain relief for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), relaxation for depression and anxiety sufferers and lessen the effects of epilepsy and other life-suppressing conditions. Both THC and CBD produce these effects, but THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in the plant, that is so easily connected with recreational use – hence giving it a tainted reputation.
CBD does not cause any psychoactive effect but still endures in its beneficial properties, suggesting its therapeutic classification and now novel food status.
What changes can we expect to see in the market?
The newly-established European Medicinal Cannabis Association (EUMCA), is determined to ensure safe and regularised manufacturing, distribution and consumption of CBD products, benefiting the population as a whole. Locally, MEP Miriam Dalli commented that users of medical cannabis require guidelines and structure that should allow them to use their medication in a non-discriminatory way, both on their country’s shores and overseas.
With strong-minded MEPs opening conversation on the benefits that the products reap, the general opinion on marijuana use is set to change, with discussions of recreational use also entering parliamentary conversation and review.
During two recent United Nations’ conventions, CBD was not mentioned as a categorised psychotropic or narcotic drug – it simply did not meet the legal basis for it to be considered as a harmful product, detrimental to society leading to its ruling as a safely consumed substance. And with the industry’s projected growth estimated at a massive 400% increased by 2023, change simply had to take place.
As a general global population, we’re surely set to see a number of improvements in the way CBD patients are treated in society. From a simple prescription to the purchasing of the product, it is likely that we will be looking at a reform where many who rely on the benefits of the natural substance will have safer availability of CBD-derived products.
The WHO and the FDA have broadened their opinions on CBD, relying on scientific backing that indicated the previously considered classing on THC as a Category 1 Drug, does not entirely relate to the entirety of by-products extracted from the cannabis plant. With two giants of the health and regulations systems endorsing this method of CBD treatment, the mainstream use of this beneficial plant will soon become a household name.