New report on THC in the UK makes recommendations for consumer CBD products

A recent report on THC levels in the UK has made a number of recommendations to the Home Office.

The cannabinoids, THC, THC-V and CBN are controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The Home Office has long maintained a 1mg threshold for controlled cannabinoids in any CBD product designed for consumer use, regardless of container size or volume of CBD.

Some operating in the sector have said that this limit is too low when compared to the full spectrum products available in the US and some European nations, which contain small amounts of THC. In April 2021, the ACI issued a response to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), as it called for public consultation. 

In a new report, published on 17 December 2021 and commissioned by Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Justice, the ACMD – an advisory, non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office – made a number of recommendations for consideration by the government. 

Professor Owen Bowden-Jones said a ‘major challenge’ was presented when searching for an appropriate dose of THC across the board. This, he said, was due to the varied product types and ways which consumers are using CBD. 

“A major challenge for recommending a single dose level for THC is how applicable it is to consumer CBD products consumed by different routes of administration, hence setting a single concentration limit that applies to all consumer CBD products would not be appropriate.” 

It was recommended that the dose of each controlled cannabinoid should not exceed 50 micrograms (µg) per single serving.

The ACMD chair called for the Food Standards Agency, and government departments for business, the environment, and health to liaise with the Home Office in ensuring the limit on all controlled cannabinoids is not surpassed in products that are on the market.

A question of accuracy

The report also questioned whether the necessary level of accuracy in lab testing for THC is achievable. Currently, standard practice on a certificate of analysis (COA) is to see the letters ‘ND’ (not detected), on a controlled cannabinoid profile. The purpose of a COA tells retailers and consumers that this product has been verified as THC and CBN-free by an independent lab, which is standard practice.

Professor Bowden-Jones recommended a further inter-lab comparison trial be established to ‘support the capability of testing laboratories to detect controlled cannabinoids below the recommended maximum levels.’

It’s thought a range of consumer CBD products already on sale to the general public would be selected for this.

In addition, the report called for the introduction of testing regulation and standardised protocols for the extraction, separation and quantification of THC from consumer CBD products. 

‘A step in the right direction’

Dr Parveen Bhatarah, regulatory and compliance lead at Association for the Cannabinoid Industry met with the ACMD to consult on the report throughout 2021. She said the recommendations are ‘certainly a step in the right direction’.

“I am pleased that the ACMD has accepted all our ACI recommendations, touching analytical, manufacturing, environmental and economic aspects of the CBD industry.

“Speaking as a scientist, the limit of 50µg for Delta-9THC in a single-serving of a CBD consumer product needs more clarity, as it could be open to misinterpretation without a maximum per day limit.

“However, I do agree it has to be taken into account, with the maximum daily limit of no more than 70mg per day for CBD by FSA.”

How prevalent is cannabinoid use in the UK?

CBD product use has been on the rise in the UK in recent years, with millions of people consuming cannabinoids for anecdotally reported reasons relating to physical and mental wellbeing.

In 2019, an independent survey conducted by YouGov estimated that around one-in-ten British adults had consumed CBD at least once in the previous year.

In the same year, a consumer research report carried out by Dynata for the Food Standards Agency found that tinctures were the preferred way for consumers to take CBD, followed by e-liquids and then capsules. Updates to this data are limited, however it is estimated that CBD use is more abundant in 2022 due to the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health.

Related: Leading food futurologist casts predictions on the future of CBD.