Major decisions by the European Commission and the World Health Organization loom over the European CBD market, but advocates remain bullish on its future.
A newly published look at CBD use in Europe surveyed about 3,100 EU residents in over 17 countries. The study was designed to find out why people are using CBD, how they consume it, and which direction the market might go in the next five years.
One problem concerns CBD’s status as a ‘novel food’ in Europe, and how the rollout of that designation has been slow and challenging. But the major test is that the European Commission is now considering whether CBD should be considered a narcotic rather than a food.
A ‘novel food’ in Europe is any product not generally available there before 1997. It includes cuisine produced using new technologies and production processes, along with food which has not been traditionally eaten in the EU. To be considered, a novel food has to be proven safe for consumers and properly labeled. So far, this isn’t happening, according toFrederick Hendriksen of Mile High Labs.
“There is much confusion on how to become compliant,” he said.
That has only delayed the process further. Currently, all CBD novel food applications are on hold.
Even more important is that the European Commission is considering designating CBD as a narcotic.
“This is based on a strict, literalist interpretation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotics of 1961,” John Kagia, the host of the panel discussion and the Chief Knowledge Officer at New Frontier Research, said. “It would make it impossible to sell CBD and would have monumental impacts on the market.”
Beyond hoping that a decision might be reached by the end of the year, nobody on this month’s panel was willing to say when the decision might be made or what it might be, and they urged all European CBD businesses to express their concerns to the Commission.
All of this is complicated further because the World Health Organization is scheduled to decide in December whether or not to reclassify cannabis from its Schedule 4 classification – the most restrictive category in the Single Convention – to the less restrictive Schedule 1 (in America, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive category). Included is a provision that would reclassify hemp and CBD. If it passes, panelists expressed hope this might allay concerns the EU has about designating hemp products as narcotics.
The mislabeling of CBD products only adds to consumer confusion, according to Stephanie Britsch of the Deep Nature Project, who says much more education is necessary.
“Many people still don’t know what CBD is,” she said.
There’s a lot of differentiation per region. The survey found that Austria and Switzerland are the highest spenders of CBD products per capita, but Germany and the UK have the largest markets.
EU cannabis use is more medically focused than here in the US, but the reasons given for its use were similar. Almost half of those answering the survey said they use CBD for pain management, 37 percent for falling asleep or general sleep quality, 34 percent for relaxation, 31 percent for stress relief and 26 percent for anxiety.
Companies need to keep this in mind, according to Kagia.
“No single reason dominates why people use CBD. It’s not a one-size-fits-all market,” Kagia argued.
And everything is changing so rapidly, he added, that they might be having a completely different discussion just a few months from now.
“1½ years in this emerging industry,” Kagia said, “is like 10 years in any other one.”