Until recently, many cannabidiol products sold in the UK were actually legal, which is why it’s relatively easy to find CBD edibles (or, “ingestibles”) in shops and online across the United Kingdom.
Under European Union Law, cultivating cannabis with no more than 0.2% THC (otherwise known as hemp) is allowable. As such, extracting cannabidiol from legally-grown European hemp and adding it to food products carried no punitive risk, as long as the resulting edibles contained less than 0.01% THC.
But in June 2019, the rules changed.
Simply put, cannabinoid-containing foods have been reclassified from “regular foods” into “novel foods” by the European Commission’s Working Group of Novel Foods.
Now in the same league as Antarctic krill oil and chia seeds, companies producing foods containing CBD—even from European-grown sources—must apply to be included in the Novel Food Catalogue, an extensive list of specialty products deemed safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the general public. Once you’re in the catalogue, you’re deemed legal for sale.
To date, there aren’t any CBD food products in the Novel Food Catalogue. But this isn’t to say existing edibles are going gently into that good night.
Many hope to be grandfathered in, as UK law firm Arnold & Porter explains on their website: “CBD food products lawfully on the market prior to 1 January 2018 may rely on the transitional provisions of the Novel Foods Regulation. As long as an application for an authorisation is filed before 2 January 2020, the product can continue to be marketed until an authorisation decision has been taken by the Commission.”
Not only is this legal grey zone confusing for consumers, it’s also having a larger economic impact. Companies like Materia Ventures are limiting their involvement in non-prescription CBD wellness products to things like topicals until the EFSA issues guidance on ingestibles, says Materia’s managing director Nick Pateras.
“Without clarity from the regulator, we don’t feel comfortable selling ingestibles against the backdrop of the European Commission’s decision earlier this year.” However, he notes guidance is expected in the coming weeks.
Legal labyrinth aside, a number of European-sourced CBD products are still available for consumers to enjoy. Here are a few that caught our eye:
Adding CBD into select products was a natural extension of this hemp-focused, certified organic food purveyor. Founded in 2017, Themptation produces a variety of goodies made from EU-sourced organic hemp, from chocolates to pestos to hummus—the latter being a top seller, according to their website.
Themptation makes their own CBD oils from C02 extracted organic hemp extract which is then independently tested for quality by Arge-Canna labs. Based near Cornwall, Themptation products are stocked in over 75 stores across the UK.
Official-sounding The Marshmallowist took the flavours of cannabis into account when they created their CBD-infused offerings. Instead of masking the grassy, often pungent hit of CBD oil with heaps of sugar, they combined it with balancing flavours of pink grapefruit, blood orange with rosemary, and classic dark cocoa in a delectable collection of feel-good treats.
This Leeds confectioner proudly source their CBD through Tonic, which claims its oils are all European-grown and processed, and touts memberships with Cannabis Trades Association UK and CannaPro, another association for the UK-based CBD and hemp businesses.
The people at London-based Wunder Workshop are very diligent about ingredients, right down to fully compostable packaging. Their Turmeric x CBD Bliss Bar is made of wild, single-origin Peruvian cacao, ethically-sourced turmeric from small farms in Sri Lanka, and CBD made from organic, European-grown cannabis. According to their website, they’re even willing to share independently-tested CBD lab results with consumers.
With a name like Starpowa, it’s hard to pass up these gummy candies. In fact, this established purveyor of wellness gummies sold out of their CBD-infused candies within hours, according to The Daily Mail UK.
Located in Essex, Starpowa claims their proudly British, vegan supplements are free of sugar, gelatin, and synthetic ingredients of any kind. Same goes for their CBD, which they claim is UK-made “from leaf to bottle” using supercritical C02 extraction and filtration along with third-party testing for quality. To date, both their 5 mg and 15 mg CBD gummies are still sold out, but you can sign up to be notified when they’re back in stock.
What’s a cannabis lover to do in a land of pubs? Enter Hop & Hemp Brewing Co., makers of low-alcohol, CBD-infused beers in fruity IPA and crisp lager styles (at 0.5% ABV—alcohol by volume—Canada would classify them as “non-alcoholic”).
Launching in 2019, Hop & Hemp claims on their website they experimented with recipes over the course of 12 months before landing on a beer-forward style that doesn’t taste anything like hemp. Combined with UK-grown malted barley and dry hops, they partnered with one of the UK’s largest CBD retailers The Drug Store to source their cannabidiol, according to a press release.