A year ago, on a crisp, sunny November morning just a stone’s throw from the Oval Cricket Ground in South London, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) was launched by a group of cannabinoid enthusiasts and experts, many of whom are CBD consumers themselves.
Several of the core team had previously worked in an organisation called the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). The CMC (and ACI) founder, Steve Moore, had played a significant role in ensuring that Medicinal Cannabis was made legal in the UK in 2018. In the summer of 2019 a market research study, undertaken by the CMC, identified the need for an association to ensure cannabinoid consumers were not being misled by unscrupulous companies.
As part of the study, the CMC discovered some shocking results. They blind tested 29 popular CBD products and found that a significant proportion did not contain what they stated on the label. One was even found to contain no CBD at all and a couple contained so much residual alcohol, from the extraction process, they should have been classified as an alcoholic beverage! A third of the products tested contained less CBD than advertised. The sad thing was this was just one of several similar studies released around that time, all with similar findings. Even today, studies still show that not all products on the market can be trusted.
In the report, CBD in the UK, the CMC also identified the size of the CBD market. Back in 2019 it was estimated to be worth a staggering £300M and was growing at such a rate it is expected to hit £1B by 2025.
However, despite the market being bigger than vitamin C and D combined, it was existing in a legal grey area. UK regulators had had a hands off approach and as a result companies keen to exploit the popularity of CBD products filled the void. As no authority was responsible for testing products on the shelves some companies felt no obligation to play fairly. This reflected poorly on the CBD industry as a whole, including companies that cared about their customers, and also gave those taking advantage of the situation an unfair competitive advantage.
The ACI, which is a industry membership organisation, was created to find a way to engage CBD companies, retailers, regulators and trading standards on the importance of ensuring that CBD products are not only safe but accurately reflect what is indicated on the label.
A year later, the ACI has made great strides in highlighting the importance of adequate regulations and gaining the necessary support from trading standards to ensure that retailers and companies selling cannabinoid products are playing by the rules.
Here’s a few highlights of the many significant achievements we have made within the cannabinoid space in our first year.
- November 2019 – The ACI launches in London.
- December 2019 – The ACI commences Novel Foods applications for our members.
- February 2020 – The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) provides clear regulatory guidance for the UK CBD industry.
- March 2020 – The ACI launches its CBD safety certification initiative.
- April 2020 – The ACI establishes in-house Regulatory and Compliance Unit and the first ACI member submits their CBD dossier for Novel Foods application.
- May 2020 – ACI hosts virtual CBD Novel Foods Symposium and announces high-level discussions with the Laboratory of Government Chemists (LGC).
- June 2020 – ACI announces CBD Safety Study Consortium to generate data to assess the safety of CBD.
- September 2020 – Over 800 delegates attend the ACI’s “The Future of CBD in Grocery” webinar with The Grocer and the ACI officially launch our Safety Study Consortium.
- October 2020 – The ACNFP, an advisory committee to the FSA, clarified key points relating to CBD novel food applications. This emphasises the importance of ACI’s consortium approach to generating safety data.
- November 2020 – The ACI marks our first year anniversary.
Throughout this time, we have generated many articles in the pharmaceutical industry, cannabis industry, retail and food industry press. Below are a few of our favourite articles, but many more, including coverage from the BBC, The Times and Huffington Post, can be found on our Media Coverage page.
- November 2019 [Hemp Industry Daily] Amid EU limits on CBD foods, UK industry group launches new effort to stay on store shelves
- March 2020 [Pharmacy Business Magazine] Poll finds big support for FSA’s warning to CBD industry
- May 2020 [Analytical Cannabis] The ACI Sets its First Standards for CBD Testing in the UK
- June 2020 [The Grocer] CBD will be removed from shelves next year, are you prepared?
- September 2020 [New Food Magazine] Plans announced for creation of safe, sustainable CBD industry
- November 2020 [Food Navigator] UK CBD industry body becalmed after novel foods applications clarification
Since our conception, the ACI has been committed to the development of a legal, safe and regulated cannabinoid market. A fundamental aspect of achieving this is by ensuring that consumers have confidence in the products that are sold. We believe that we are the only organisation in the UK that has made any progress in achieving that goal. We have done this by bringing together all the necessary stakeholders.
However, we won’t rest on our laurels and are busy working on multiple initiatives to consolidate our position as the only credible membership organisation representing the cannabinoid industry in the UK and beyond.
2021 will be an exciting year and we relish the challenges that lie ahead. We look forward to checking in again in November 2021 to see what we’ve achieved by the grand old age of two.