06 Dec The Facts About CBD In The UK. December 2016.
On 3rd October 2016 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued notices to a number of CBD suppliers stating that cannabidiol (CBD) was being designated as a medicine and that sale of all CBD products must stop within 28 days, ostensibly by the 1st November.
A lot has happened since. Most importantly, the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK) has been established to represent the industry and protect the interests of CBD consumers but there remains great confusion as to the legal status of CBD and whether these products will still be available. This article sets out the facts and explains how the market is likely to develop. The most important point is that there is no need for panic. There will be some changes but no one will lose access to CBD for the foreseeable future.
Through the summer of 2016, rumours and half stories had been swirling around about the MHRA taking action on CBD. When the news broke it caused real panic, both for the thousands of people using CBD products and for those working in CBD businesses. It looked like a real disaster for everyone. On the one hand the government, through the MHRA, was finally recognising the truth that CBD and cannabis are medicine. On the other, it seemed that the whole industry was going to be shut down, businesses would close, people would lose their jobs and, most importantly, those who rely on CBD products for maintaining their health were going to suffer real harm. If CBD was going to be regulated as a medicine it would require the investment of hundreds of thousands of pounds to obtain the necessary authorisation to put any products on the market.
It quickly became clear that the MHRA was unprepared for the reaction it received. Its switchboard was swamped by worried callers. Social media exploded with the inevitable Big Pharma conspiracy theories and even the national press covered the story demonstrating that medicinal cannabis is now an issue of mainstream interest.
CLEAR took action to rally our friends and colleagues in the legitimate cannabis business and this led to the creation of CTAUK. The same day the news broke we wrote to the MHRA notifying it of the formation of the trade association and seeking a meeting.
On 13th October, the MHRA issued a statement on its website explaining its actions.
CLEAR’s advisory board members, Professor Mike Barnes issued a statement to the media and Crispin Blunt MP wrote to Dr Ian Hudson, the chief executive of the MHRA. Even the British Medical Journal covered the story.
On 19th October the MHRA finally confirmed a meeting with the CTAUK to take place on 3rd November. On 21st October, Dr Ian Hudson replied to Crispin Blunt’s letter. CTAUK appointed solicitors who in turn obtained counsel’s opinion and on 28th October a solicitor’s letter was sent to the MHRA formally objecting to its action. On 1st November the MHRA updated its statement on its website softening its position by claiming that its notices to CBD suppliers were merely its “opinion” that it should be designated as a medicine.
The meeting took place at MHRA headquarters on 3rd November. It was cordial and constructive and on 16th November CTAUK wrote to the MHRA formally proposing a system for the regulation of CBD. Essentially this suggests that CBD products with daily adult dosage of up to 200mg should continue to be marketed as a food supplement. Products with a daily adult dosage of up to 600mg would require a Traditional Herbal Registration and higher dosage products would require a full Marketing Authorisation. We await the MHRA’s response.
The MHRA has since written to CBD suppliers requiring them within seven days to provide samples of their products along with various information about them. However, CTAUK has been able to negotiate that our members have until the end of January to comply. This is excellent news and demonstrates recognition of the association by the MHRA.
Is CBD Legal In The UK?
Yes, CBD is not a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, neither is it covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. As long as it is marketed as a food supplement without any medicinal claims it is perfectly legal to sell and to buy.
Is The MHRA Going To Ban CBD?
No, the MHRA will have to assess each product on its own merits, particularly taking into account how it is marketed and whether any claims of medicinal benefit have been made.
What Will Happen In the Future?
We hope that the MHRA will accept our proposals for a system of regulation, meaning that only the highest dose products, such as GW Pharma’s soon-to-be- released ‘Epidiolex’ will require a full Marketing Authorisation. However, even if the MHRA tries to take formal action about any other products, this is going to take many months and probably a much as a year before anything changes. We remain confident that we will come to an agreement that will enable everyone to continue to access CBD products.