CBD in the EU - the latest policy update

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Over the past few months, a quiet revolution has been underway in the CBD industry. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations surrounding CBD in the EU have been shifting, with the end result a huge step forward for the industry.

What happened?

Previously, the EU Commission planned to reassess cannabidiol (CBD) and classify it as a Schedule 1 drug, along with other prohibited narcotics. This would bring the regulation into line with the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which was adopted in 1961.

At the beginning of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had drawn a completely different picture, namely that CBD had nothing in common with the illegal drugs otherwise listed in the Convention.

Now, in October 2020, comes relief with a positive surprise: in a vote in the European Parliament, as a part of the reform for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a majority of the delegates have voted in favor of increasing the permitted THC content in CBD products to move from 0.2% to 0.3%.

The history of hemp regulation

Hemp previously served as a common source of food, fiber and building material in Europe for more than 2500 years, but by modern times, restrictions on growing practices began to be put into place. Legally, industrial hemp was equated with marijuana and the same rules applied to both, enforcing the ban on cultivation.

The decisive difference is in the THC content of the plants: while marijuana has a very high THC content (between 5-25%) and is highly psychotropic, industrial hemp has a primarily high content of CBD (cannabidiol), with a naturally low occurring content of THC.

Until the 1990s, however, a limit value of 0.3% THC was always applied to the cultivation of hemp in most European countries. In 1999, at the insistence of France and with the desire to unify the agricultural policy around hemp cultivation in the EU, the value was finally reduced to 0.2%.

Are the new regulations helpful?

According to the EIHA (European Industrial Hemp Association) this is a long overdue decision. EIHA President Daniel Kruse said of the decision that hemp has served as an important raw material for thousands of years and had been dismissed for decades as a small, negligible crop.

He added that the new regulation was particularly beneficial for diversity: new varieties could be brought to market more easily and the various climatic differences within the EU could also be taken into account.

If the delegates had decided otherwise, this could have been the end for the CBD industry, but also for many hemp farmers and jobs directly or indirectly connected to the industry.

So, what happens now?

At the end of October, the European Parliament voted on its negotiating position on the three regulations that shape the CAP and regulatory practices.

The text will be the subject of negotiations with the European Commission and the Council with a view to finding a common position to be adopted next year.

The European Commission had already expressed its opposition in July 2020, so it remains to be seen whether it will join the vote of the Parliament next year in order to create a new wave of policy on cannabis.

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