As tends to happen throughout history when a new industry is brought to the forefront and then submitted to regulation, the initial regulations might not fit correctly, be too generalized for more particular areas, or even cause harm. There are a lot of reasons this could happen from sheer incompetence, to a lack of understanding of a market by those who regulate it, or even because it can be financially beneficial for other entities which might be hurt or helped by such regulation.
Sometimes over time these regulations are modified into a more useful set of standards that more aptly do their job to keep an industry safe for consumers without causing unnecessary damage. And sometimes it’s just a mess, and often times a mess that has the capability of doing extreme damage to an industry and all the workers, producers, and distributors therein, as well as those who rely on the products produced from it.
Europe is facing one of those times right now as the CBD industry has been crippled by regulation that for the most part seems to be out of place. A sort of over-reach, if you will. According to European regulation, currently, countries of the EU can grow industrial cannabis so long as the THC content is .2% or less. This, however does not apply to foods and beverages containing CBD.
CBD – or cannabidiol – is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid of the cannabis plant that is often found in higher quantities in hemp plants, and which has been linked to a host of medical benefits ranging from aiding in the treatment of anxiety and depression, to helping fight pathogenic diseases, to even being a contender in the fight against some cancers.
At this point, in order for a company to produce any kind of food or beverage containing CBD, they must apply for pre-market authorization from the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA). This is only achieved through a long drawn-out process and with a large amount of medical data given (which is a good thing unless the standards they’re setting are unrealistic). To give an idea of how useful this process has been, though, no CBD supplier has yet been granted access through EFSA.
Several brands have submitted paperwork including Cannabis Pharma, TTS Pharma, and others. While some argue that the novel foods legislation isn’t actually legally binding, it does seem to have the effect of a legally binding law with companies as of yet unwilling to go against it. Some, however, view this as an opening for Europe to adopt the more American policy of not always caring if every provision of every law is followed.
In the case of CBD in America, for example, it’s not technically legal under federal law to include in foods and beverages, and yet is often done anyway. The US is different, of course, in its States vs. Federal government make-up, but regardless of this difference, if regulation takes too long, the people of the EU might be willing to bend more rules to get the products they want.
In the US, there are tons of retailers these days selling CBD infusions of all kinds of things from lemonade to beer, lollipops to chocolate bars, salad dressings to sauces…While this isn’t technically legal according to the FDA, it still is a staple of the cannabis consuming community whether for medicinal or recreational use. In fact, the culture of eating cannabis in America has been around for quite some time with kids baking weed cooking in their kitchens for generations.
With the advent of CBD as a so-called ‘wonder drug’, and being scheduled differently than THC, and with looser regulations on cannabis in general throughout different parts of the world (and particularly in the US and Canada which have gone as far as legalization, at least in certain places), the number of cannabis-related products have skyrocketed as a whole. Cannabinoids like CBD are being stuck into so many different kinds of places – like mouthwash, and coffee, and meatless hotdogs even (I swear I saw it once) – that after a point it almost becomes expected to see it in everything.
And yet, none of this eating culture ever really reached Europe, and now, as the CBD and hemp industry have taken off to astronomical levels, this idea of incorporating CBD into food has finally gotten some traction in countries like Bulgaria. Unfortunately, it also got some bad regulation along with it.
The idea that there wouldn’t be some kind of regulation is, in fact, crazy. And I think that needs to be said. CBD is a great little molecule that can potentially do a whole lot of good, but that does not mean it should be consumed at will without thought to the amount being taken and what it might do.
While it is often toted as a miracle cure (it’s good, but let’s not use that term), and said to have no side effects (come on, let’s be serious here), those of us in the real world (especially those of us in the plant medicine world) know this isn’t true. Sure, CBD isn’t associated with really awful side effects – in fact, not any that I can think of – but that doesn’t mean that taking too much won’t couch-lock a person horribly, or even make them feel a little sick, I’ve had it happen to me plenty of times!
These things are understandable though and should be expected, they just need to be understood and spoken about as well. And it’s for this reason that the idea of regulating these products – particularly the amount of CBD in a product – is important. But it’s also important that the regulations themselves don’t hinder an industry, or actually stop people from getting the help they need.
In a way it’s kind of funny. The amount of innovation in the markets and the global demand for these products, along with the government’s ability to profit off the sales, would indicate a much quicker and more relevant response, but that’s just not what’s happening. We’re always told that government matters take time, but should it really take this much time? And if it continues to lag, will EU member states and suppliers start taking matters into their hands and providing the products that they haven’t yet been legally cleared to sell?
As a showing of how we so like to get around the rules, Bulgaria might be the first EU country to openly sell CBD items – even the edible kind. California-based company Kannaway was issued a free certificate of sale allowing the company to sell their products in Bulgarian markets. As Kannaway CEO Blake Schroeder put it “as the EU continues to navigate its stance on CBD, we are proud to continue paving the way for the acceptance of CBD in Bulgaria just as we have in many other countries around the world.”
It still needs to be confirmed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, but if it does, it would be the first EU country to take such measure, going against EU rules. So far this has been going on for almost a year. Hopefully there will be an answer soon.
This is the way it works: Kannaway is a subsidiary of Medical Marijuana Inc., and the products are sold specifically as ‘traditional foods’ in this way bypassing the EU’s stringent classification of edible products with CBD. It’s some interesting footwork, but may very well get the job done. And if more companies and countries can find workarounds like this, it might force a regulatory change, or simply relegate the current regulation to meaningless jibber-jabber that no one really cares about.
While getting edible CBD products into a country like Bulgaria with a tighter-than-necessary regulatory system might not be a groundbreaking accomplishment in history, it does very well show that where there’s a will, there’s a way. When people want something done, they find a way to do it.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Kannaway and Bulgaria, and if this influences current regulations on CBD in Europe.
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