Parliamentary group divided on proposals for new CBD approval system

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Cbd cannabinoids cannabidiol

Proposals to overhaul the UK Cannabidiol (CBD) approval system has led to tension among some members of the Secretariat Advisory Board (SAB) of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that liaises with government to inform industry policies.

Two members (Charles Clowes and Kyle Esplin) have been expelled from the board after leaking details of a draft document due to be discussed at a SAB meeting. Esplin has also been accused of railing against another board member, the Cannabis Trade Association (CTA).

In a statement signed by executive directors, Marika Graham-Woods and Sian Phillips, following the leak, they say that Esplin “continues to rail against the CTA and what we stand for on behalf of our members”​.

The CTA asserted its support for the SAB and “unity within the board to advance the UK’s cannabis and hemp industry”​.

“Without this, we risk a fragmented future that doesn't work in the interests of all stakeholders”, ​they say.

Balanced framework

Conflict within the board stems from recommendations for a single representative body to provide guidance on future UK Government framework, which would be coordinated by SAB members and chaired by CBD producer, Tenacious Labs.

CEO Nick Moorland previously expressed his desire for government to develop a framework with clear, balanced, inclusive regulatory processes to “actively drive a new cycle of growth, investment and jobs​”, even if new proposals seed discontent among members.

He said appointing a dedicated point of contact would simplify interactions to affect real change and potentially facilitate a “plan for the establishment of a timely and valuable new long-term premium Cannabis industry​”. 

Growth potential

SAB proposals were submitted in a letter to George Freeman at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) earlier this year by co-chairs, Crispin Blunt and Conservative peer, Baroness Manzoor, amid concern about “the negative impact of current regulation and the difficulty of getting industry views to Government​”.

The CBD sector generated approximately £650m in annual sales in 2021 and has the potential to equal revenues from Scottish whisky (£5.5bn), according to industry experts, however current legislation limits CBD extraction in the UK and access to climate resistant seed imports from non-EU sources.

“Getting CBD product regulation right is an opportunity to create thousands of jobs, draw in millions of pounds of investment and build on our international bioscience reputation, whilst simultaneously creating a safe consumer market which enables consumer choice.” 

Regulatory changes

The document suggests replacing anti-competitive Novel Foods with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) approach that is “transparent, equal and directly benefit consumers​”.

Novel Food status is a “complex, costly and counterproductive​” EU guideline, the report says, whereas COA would be produced by an independent laboratory on the finished product.

The board is also calling for controlled cannabinoid limits on the final product (of 1%); permission for UK hemp farmers to extract the CBD; approval for imports of non-EU approved hemp seeds; and controlled cannabinoid limits in the field (1% as opposed to 0.2% currently).

Moorland said: “With a proper process established, post-Brexit UK has an excellent chance of becoming the leading force in the premium segment of the Cannabis Industry, generating massive economic benefits.”

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