Regardless of how you voted – if you voted in the Eu referendum, it is not inaccurate to say that it has had a massive impact on Britain. With the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU still hanging in mid-air, it is impossible to know what next week holds, let alone the next few years.
Much has been made about people wanting to leave the EU to ‘gain control over immigration’ and sovereignty but what are the implications for CBD in Britain if we do end up leaving the EU?
The Current state of CBD in the UK
The cannabis plant has been restricted in the UK since it was added to the Dangerous Drugs Act in 1928. However, with the developments of technology and a better understanding of the chemistry of CBD, things have changed. Cannabis is still prohibited for recreational use, but some of its compounds are now allowed as long as they don’t get you high.
CBD or cannabidiol is currently legal in the UK and CBD products are generally allowed as long as it has levels of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) of 0.2% or under.
At the moment, there are a few CBD products which have been authorised and licenced as medicines for a (very) limited number of people. Most other CBD products have been registered as a food supplement.
The UK is actually the world’s biggest producer of medicinal cannabis, exporting almost 100 tonnes of it per year, and bizarrely, medicinal cannabis is intrinsically linked to British politics at the moment.
Theresa May’s husband, Philip May’s investment group is the largest investor in one of Britain’s biggest medicinal marijuana producers – GW Pharmaceutical. Conspiracy theories aside, this shows an inescapable connection between medical marijuana and the law.
EU rules regarding CBD
As we are still members of the EU, we are bound by some if their rules. However, whilst having authority over serious drug crimes like trafficking, the EU does not have any real control over the drug policies of each country who is a member.
This means that Brexit will make no difference to British marijuana laws and how they implemented as such.
Novel Food Laws
One impact that the EU does have on CBD in the UK is through what’s known as ‘Novel Food’ laws. ‘Novel Foods’ are foods which have not been commonly consumed in Europe before 1997, and so have no history of consumption to look back on. CBD products have been classified as ‘Novel Foods’ and are therefore bound by these rules.
To be able to sell a ‘Novel Food’, producers need to have a licence which is obtained by application and passing safety tests, which can take up to 18 months to obtain.
This is a very recent change in the rules and looks likely to catch out many CBD producers in the UK and all over Europe.
At present the government have stated that even if we leave the EU with no deal, the current EU rules will be automatically transferred into UK law. Which means that these ‘Novel Food’ laws are likely to stay.
With these new rules, there is a massive challenge looming for the CBD industry in the UK and it seems that leaving the EU and disregarding these rules might be the only solution.
Trading and Human Rights
Despite what the ‘Leave campaign’ might have you believe, the main impact that the EU has on business is through trade agreements and the implementation and maintenance of human and employee rights.
It is the EU that allows free trade around the union and ensures that staff are treated fairly and work in healthy conditions.
Although some leavers are happy to forgo the customs union which allows free trade in Europe as well as other trade deals made on behalf of the EU around the world, it would almost certainly be inhibiting for many CBD businesses in the UK.
Likewise, for those who buy CBD products from other EU countries, Brexit is likely bring higher prices and more difficulty bringing them in. For CBD product producers in the UK, there is the additional complication that many of them use CBD which has been extracted from hemp plants all over Europe.
It could, therefore, be more difficult or expensive for them to bring extract into the UK, and this would almost certainly have an impact either on the quality of the product or the price for British consumers.
Of course, a deal with a customs union could help this situation.
We would also have to hope that the British government continue to adhere to the rules which have been put in place by the EU with regards to worker’s rights. With a government such as the one we have at present, it is hard to see that that they would improve the EU’s stance on human rights given the neglect that we have seen in policing, the NHS, social services and education in the past few years.
The Legalisation of Cannabis
Although we are seeing a rising movement across the world towards the legalisation of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use, with countries such as Canada and Uruguay, as well as an increasing number of US states jumping on board, it still looks unlikely to happen any time soon in the UK.
The government as it stands is completely opposed to it, as is the opposition – and also the DUP – the party who have a great deal of power within the Conservative government. It would be a massive U-turn in British politics if they were to consider legalising cannabis.
It would, however, be a great way to boost the coffers in a post-Brexit country which, in all likelihood will be struggling economically for years to come. It could also be a popular manifesto promise for the labour party, who might be highly dependant on the younger vote, and potentially provide much needed jobs (which is likely in a faltering economy) if US-style dispensaries were to open.
Although seemingly unlikely, we are all now accustomed to expecting the unexpected in British politics and we have learnt – through the fiasco of the Brexit process so far – that anything can happen.
One of the main issues that businesses across the country are having to deal with at the moment is uncertainty over the future. The feeling of limbo is very real, and we are seeing an ever-increased need for some sort of resolution – whatever it may be.
It is very difficult for businesses to make normal decisions about their future – whether it is budgeting, how to expand, where to source their materials or whether to employ extra staff, for example – when we have no idea about what is coming around the corner.
In an industry which is growing at lightning pace – such as the CBD industry – and one which is changing all the time, this can be especially impactful. The longer that Brexit uncertainty goes on for, the longer it will take for businesses to be able to prosper and grow.
Should we stay or should we go – the future of CBD in Britain
Regardless of your personal beliefs of whether we should leave the EU with a no deal, accept the deal which Theresa May is defending to the hilt, revoke Article 50 or have a people’s vote, the reality is that it is the uncertainty of it all which is crippling almost all business in the UK.
The whole Brexit debacle has proved to be extremely divisive across the whole country. And just like opinions, the impact of Brexit (or not) on CBD in the UK is divided. On the one hand, being free of restrictive rules which can impact the sale of CBD products which are labelled as ‘Novel Foods’ could be positive for the industry, and the legalisation of all things cannabis could also have positive effect – if we were to go down that road.
However, the lack of any sort of customs union and free trade, and the support for the welfare of workers that we currently enjoy from the EU could mean disaster for the CBD industry in the UK if Brexit were to happen.