Cannabis as an ingredient in food or supplements (United Kingdom)

Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and possession and supply are prohibited without specific Home Office approval. Cannabidiol (CBD), however, is one of more than a hundred chemicals found naturally in the hemp plant (cannabis sativa) and, as an isolated substance in its pure form, is not a controlled drug under the Act, because it does not contain the psychoactive cannabinoid, delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC). The FSA classified foods containing CBD, including food supplements, as novel foods back in 2019 and included in its classification naturally-derived CBD and synthetic CBD. Despite being classified as novel, CBD has taken an unusual regulatory journey in that, unlike other novel foods which are prohibited unless they are specifically authorised fol-lowing a safety assessment, CBD was permitted to remain on the market until 31 March 2021 provided it met certain requirements (safe, uncontaminated with other cannabinoids such as THC, accurately labelled, place on the market before 13 February 2020). Oddly, the rules did not apply to new products placed on the market after 13 February 2020, or to products placed on the EU market (at this stage, the UK was still within the Brexit transition period). If novel food applications for those CBD products were not submitted by the 31 March 2021 deadline they were to be removed, whilst for CBD products subject to novel food application could remain on the market subject to the assessment. Over 12,000 CBD products linked to novel food applications are listed on the FSA's Register and, whilst there have been few updates since its publication, the first safety assessment for a synthetic CBD was published only at the end of April 2024. Whilst this does not mean the product (or others) will be authorised anytime soon, it shows that pro-gress is moving in the right direction.

This is general information rather than legal advice and is current as of 30 May 2024. We recommend you contact a specialised food lawyer for legal advice for your particular circumstances to support commercial decisions which could impact your product or business.

Dominic Watkins

United Kingdom