Opinion: When is a food, not a food?
Updated: Feb 10
This has been possibly the month from hell for the legal cannabis industry; Novel Foods is looming, there's not been any generosity afforded to the industry by the FSA during Covid lock-down periods and the FSA haven't exactly dealt with some of the most fundamental questions on novel foods with weeks to go before the deadline such as; What is the definition of a non-selective CBD extract and can secondary producers just buy a validated extract without having to be restricted by having their products directly tied to a Novel Application?
Several updates, suggestions and clampdowns have happened and they are concerning:
Official portrait of Kit Malthouse
First came Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Policing who suggests that the active ingredient quantity needs to be revised in regards to the Misuse of Drugs Regulation 2001 (MoDR). Where we have the 1mg rule, he is suggesting that it be representative of volume and not 'regardless of container size' as it is now. Whilst this is a good move in principle, the tolerance levels suggested by Mr Malthouse would barely help the industry at the higher point, but the lower end of his suggestion is worrying and would be difficult to achieve.
Then came the BEIS advice, suggesting that 10 more cannabinoids be added to the prohibited list and that MoDR 2001 be update to reflect that. It also suggests that there should be a 1mg collective total on those cannabinoids instead of 1mg per active ingredient.
The results of this is that I have received reports of seizures by Border Forces due to uncertainty over the current state of the MoDR 2001. This is concerning, MoDR has been the underpinning of this industry and has allowed it to function.
For both of these considerations to become law they would have to go through the Home Office (HO), but it's not the first time that we see them in the driving seat. The FSA have stated as much during the run up to the Novel Foods deadline (31/03/21) and I have an FOI that shows the VMD are taking direction from the HO for pet products instead of veterinary specialist and studies, it is in fact common knowledge that the HO tried to influence the FSA back in 2017 and the then head of Novel Foods was demoted for not complying with the HO's request for all cannabinoids to be classed as Novel.
When is a food not a food? When the HO is involved is the simple answer!
The HO do have question marks hanging over their heads though, especially in regards to 2018 when then Prime Minister Theresa May and then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for State Victoria Atkins were pointed out as having potential conflicts of interest in regards to cannabis. Victoria Atkins admitted as such in parliamentary session whilst recusing herself from questions on the topic due to her husbands position in a company who grew cannabis 2 years before her appointment as Minister with the Portfolio for Drugs.
The fact that these two high profile politicians were identified as persons with potential conflicts yet they still have not been investigated in line with the Ministerial Code of Conduct is shocking, and as only a sitting Prime Minister can dismiss investigations into conflicts of interest it raises the question of whether May was protecting herself and Atkins.
The fact that the CBD food supplemental industry is being judged by the standards of the medicinal industry is suspicious, especially as the vast majority of studies that are used come from one company who has patents awarded for CBD and other cannabinoid combinations from before the CBD industry was recognised.
The fact that the HO has as much control over cannabis as a whole needs to be re-evaluated, whilst the world goes forward in embracing cannabis as a commodity the UK does otherwise, and it is easy to believe that this backward direction is purely in an attempt to further restrict access to the health and well-being benefits of the whole plant.
Subsequently questions need to be asked:
If the WHO had petitioned for whole plant extract from industrial hemp to be removed from the UN scheduling list, why is the UK moving in the opposite direct when it pays into the WHO itself for such advise?
Why is it that we now have to consider 12 cannabinoids? Where's the evidence that shows that these cannabinoids are prohibited in law and why are they of concern when some of these compounds occur in minute levels in industrial hemp?
Is it time for the HO to relinquish its control of cannabis? At UN level cannabis has been deemed as having medicinal value and at EU level hemp is viewed as essential for health and well-being, we may have left the EU but that ruling occurred before we departed.
If the HO cannot deal with reported and partially verified conflicts of interest in regards to cannabis, how can the industry trust them when 2 very big recommendations are lodged to redefine MoDR right on the cusp of the Novel Foods Deadline? The FSA have stated that the HO are holding their hand on this, as they were with the VMD. The Industry deserves the right to know that this isn't the HO again trying to further control a plant that belongs to the people.
As a result, The Hemp Hound Agency will act as such:
We will launch an FOI to determine the validity of the 12 cannabinoids in law, it is essential that it be determined whether these suggestions come about due to patent ownership or by informed debate.
We shall pursue ongoing investigations into reported conflicts of interest, with FOI's to be returned to see if there were any requests for investigation inline with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
We will continue to aid in the investigate into whether the legality of cannabis is based on evidence or ownership.
We will support grass-root movements and existing entities who promote free access to cannabis with no legal recourse.
We will also be releasing a further in depth statement, with a timeline that we believe shows HO intervention into the UK legal cannabis market.
There's a blatant attack on the good herb, and it's time to fight back.
If you are a business owner, I would suggest that now is the time to be a member of a trade association as there is strength in numbers.
We need to work together and start asking questions, for the good of consumers and the industry alike.