Scrutinising the market
Looking into the future or even attempting to predict it is perhaps a folly. Proper preparation and real planning, with intelligence, scrutiny and a pragmatic eye is the key to success. It is often wise to look to the past year and consider the drops of information to accurately predict where and when the dam will break, where to build and where to prospect.
The last 12 months have given us many clues and indications of what is coming and, whilst this is not a prediction it is an interpretation, a tracking of the steps and an educated guess on the direction of travel.
There will be some significant movements:
· Toxicology submissions have been fundamentally disastrous by some who should know better, and regulators globally are taking note. It was no surprise when the FDA doubled down on the industry and essentially passed the buck back to Congress, which should have come as no surprise given the Charlotte’s Web decision and the announcements of last summer. Quite simply, the Regulators recognise that Cannabidiol is a medicine and they like those to be manufactured by pharmaceutical companies under GMP conditions. We have plenty of examples where a compound, ingredient or substance can be both - see caffeine (Lemsip (Cold and Flu) and coffee etc.), where the same draconian limits are not placed as they increasingly are and will be upon our industry.
· So called big-Pharma and the patent holders are circling the wagons to ensure that CBD (and any uncontrolled cannabinoids - read CBG) are not sold as foods, unless they are at such low doses that no-one will even be able to make a credible claim as to even a wellness benefit. Consumers are no mugs and will not pay the prices required for supplements when they can access online supplies of higher dosage products.
· The “CBD Genie” is out of the bottle and these actions will only deter and stymie responsible producers and ultimately benefit the grey but predominantly black markets, ensuring the very consumer detriment that the regulators are ultimately tasked with preventing.
· We now have some Championing the UK as a replacement, in part, for lost U.S revenues, but that is misleading, and the detail provided only after a Membership Fee or several seminar costs have refilled the coffers that are emptying after the Novel Food revenue dries up.
· A number of F&B companies who are one-trick ponies and/or innovator-led are trying to exit with their retirement fund and are leading other Lemmings with the claim of - "first to market advantage", that is no advantage when the destination for certain products is the cliff edge.
Have you noticed that Centres, Associations, Councils, and Advisory Boards are either morphing into something new or broadening their remits, seeking to hoover up disparate elements of the industry - essentially anyone that they can extract a fee from and create a Sub-Committee for, in order to improve their own prominence and proclaim themselves as the "One True Industry Body” – “Simply the Best, Better than all the Rest" (musical reference intentional)? But to what aim and to what success?
Seeking to overturn existing legislation that is not only entrenched but becoming more so as they seek to abolish it rather than drive or amend it. The latter being achievable with a united front and strong unilateral message which is not a Trojan Horse for other goals.
Our industry media is becoming Murdock-esque, often unable to fact-check or call-out misrepresentations for fear of losing advertising income in their own or a sister publication or paid-for speaker slots at a sister conference - this industry has less impartial news than many a click bait column. If it's not an advertorial it's a bid for one.
Educated assertions, not predictions
Here are my predictions or I'd rather call them educated assessments:
- CBD Products: Medicinal and Prescription only above 15-20mg per day by Q1 2024.
- Restrictions on supplements such as single dose products (gummies): limits at 10mg and a maximum ADI/RDI of 15-20mg.
- Nothing other than GMP produced CBD Isolate or Synthetic CBD.
- Zero tolerance on THC in consumer products
By Whom? A tripartite approach by the Home Office, MHRA and FSA (but with more determination, noise and action from the first two); and,
When? It is already happening.
What can we do?
If you are a CBD manufacturer, supplier or retailer, then you can prepare by recognising that you are not going to be in the lawful whole-plant business (because there won't be one), you are in the Consumer-Packaged Goods business.
You can then review your product range, working out which of your products delight the consumer and which provide them with only a passing interest - because the former is where you should focus.
But most of all, you can stop following false promises from false prophets who tell you that 2023 is paved with gold for the cannabinoid industry, especially when you hear the ever-present sound of their collecting-tins out.
There is a need for serious, professional and honest advice and representation in our industry and, having been here longer than most, it is something which has been sorely lacking throughout. There are amazing opportunities in our industry and many incredible participants that, collectively, can ensure it remains successful throughout the current and pending adversity.
Novel Foods is here to stay and we believe that progress can be made, however, the process will continue to present challenges for applicants and the nature of those challenges is somewhat uncertain. It is inconceivable that the UK will ignore regulatory voices of concern from E.U. and U.S. regulators, regardless of their incentives and obvious undue influences.
New hurdles are pending, although they will be navigable for those who have the right approach and the correct advice, but more stringent rules than at present are inevitable, so companies will need to re-examine product offerings and potentially pivot focus to survive.
Selling CBD flower, HHC and mixing Novel ingredients together plays into the hands of the regulatory elements with harsher intentions. In the face of virtually zero enforcement, it is left to those of us who invest in compliance and customer satisfaction to set the standards.
As incredible as it may seem, de-facto recreational use may arrive before authorisation of CBD as a food supplement, but if it does it will not be the legal framework championed by the Czech’s and Germany (where the obstacles from the Commission and U.N. are almost insurmountable without unanimous support), but via decriminalisation for users - providing another boost for the black market and no increase in safety standards.
Is it time for the creation of an industry federation such as F.A.C.T which protects its signatories and provides the much needed enforcement?
Remember what we always say: Be Careful Who You Listen To - Especially in 2023!