The UK has become the first country in the world to regulate the market for safe, orally consumed legal cannabis extracts, following the release today of the Food Standards Agency’s public list of CBD products permitted for sale to consumers. 

Among the 70 applicants who have successfully made the list are 45 members of the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry consortium, accounting for 64% of the successful applications. 

Only those CBD products featured on the list have been given the green light by the FSA to stay on the market, in line with the UK’s Novel Food requirements. Products not included must now be removed from shelves.

Publication of the list – a key stage on the path to full authorisation, expected in 2023 – follows two years of close co-operation between the FSA and the ACI, the UK’s CBD sector trade body.

Steve Moore, ACI founder, commented: 

“The FSA public list represents a major milestone for the UK’s CBD category. It demonstrates the progress the sector has made to meet compliance requirements and creates greater regulatory certainty which, in turn, will increase levels of consumer trust, encourage investment in the sector, and promote innovation. ACI is immensely grateful for the work that our members and the FSA have put in to take this momentous step.”

CBD products on the FSA list have been undergoing assessment by the agency in a long and rigorous Novel Foods process. This was open to any CBD product designed for oral consumption that was on sale in the UK on or before 13 February 2020, with the deadline for applications set at 31 March 2021. 

Any product launched after 13 February 2020, or which was not the subject of a dossier submitted by the cut-off date, may not now be sold until full authorisation is granted.

ACI has spearheaded the CBD industry’s response to the application process from the outset. In September 2020, it created a scientific-based consortium of members to submit a ‘super- dossier’ on their behalf. This was lodged with the FSA in February 2021, and has been vital in helping members’ products be placed on the public list. These products will, therefore, remain on the market as they progress towards validation and then authorisation. 

The group has also concluded the live phase of the OECD toxicology study required to validate dossiers. Data analysis is expected to be completed in June.

Moore said: 

“We are hugely proud that, through our consortium study, all members of the ACI have been included on the FSA’s public list, therefore earning the right to continue to be sold within the UK.”

One member of the ACI consortium appearing on the FSA’s list is Naturecan. The company, headquartered in Stockport, is led by former CEO of Myprotein, Andrew Duckworth. Of making the list, the founder said:

“This is another significant milestone for our business and it’s important to recognise our regulatory colleagues who have worked so hard on our applications. 

“Proving the safety of our products to our valued customers has always been of utmost importance and has been backed by significant investment and regulatory expertise, so it’s satisfying to see our supply chain externally verified.

“We will continue to work with the FSA on the next steps of the process and look forward to full validation and authorisation, in due course.” 

Another ACI Consortium member is Goodbody Health. In a statement, Geremy Thomas, Executive Chairman, said: 

“The progression so far is very welcome, as after a significant amount of work and investment over the last 2 years, we can demonstrate our ambition of best quality, best price, guaranteed. We control every step of the process from extraction to shelf, and test through our accredited laboratory, to ensure every product that is made has achieved our ‘Gold Standard’, demonstrating that the Company meets legal and regulatory requirements.”

What happens next? 

In a media briefing, an FSA spokesperson told Cannabinoid Insight that full market authorisation should not be expected before the middle of 2023. 

In the meantime, all businesses selling CBD products in England and Wales – including supermarkets, convenience stores, health food shops, pharmacies, online retailers, cafés and restaurants – are being urged to check their current stock against the list to ensure they are compliant. 

Moving forward, the association will continue to work in tandem with Trading Standards to enforce the new rules immediately, with any company offering unlisted CBD products for sale facing possible action by its officers. However, an FSA spokesperson urged brands and retailers to remove products voluntarily. 

A spokesperson for Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards is calling on consumers and retailers to be vigilant, and to properly check the products they may have at home, or in stock. The spokesperson for the local authority said: 

“Information from consumers and retailers supports Trading Standards to target our enforcement activities and by doing that enables us to make the best use of our limited resources. 

“If you identify a product which is not on the FSA´s list, it should not be offered for sale in the UK. We are pleased to be working with the ACI who are facilitating consumers and retailers to report non-compliant products via the website UKCBDlist.com. 

“This will help us effectively perform our role in the newly regulated CBD market, removing products from sale from companies who have not been able to produce robust plans to generate safety data according to the FSA.”  

UKCBDList.com is a free online resource which will serve as a reference point enabling consumers, retailers, health practitioners and enforcement authorities to verify whether a product is being sold legally.

Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the FSA, said: 

“The CBD market is growing rapidly. The FSA has been working to move the CBD industry into compliance. Today we have taken the next step in our pragmatic approach to making sure CBD products are safe and what they say they are.

“We have created the public list to help local authorities and retailers prioritise products to be removed from sale. If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation.”   

The UK’s market for consumer CBD products was worth £690 million in 2021, according to ACI estimates – more than double the level of sales recorded in 2019, when the market was valued £314 million. 

The UK is now the world’s second largest market for consumer CBD, behind only the US, and the first jurisdiction in the world to regulate the consumer cannabinoid.