The popularity of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) has increased dramatically in recent years. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants and is extracted from the leaves and flower tops of fiber hemp. In almost every drugstore and health food store nowadays you can find products that contain CBD, from food supplements, like CBD-oil and capsules, to cosmetics. Some companies are out ther promoting their use for all kinds of complaints, ranging from insomnia to eczema and from ADHD to quitting smoking.
Although products containing CBD have become enormously popular in a short period of time, they are hardly monitored. Because there is no established, legal standard, the quality of products containing CBD varies enormously. In most cases, consumers have no idea what they are consuming.
When asked, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and the Healthcare and Youth Inspectorate (IGJ) indicate that they do not supervise these products, both pointing to the other supervisor as the responsible body. So whether anyone is supervising these products, and if so who, is unclear. Actually, this is inconceivable in an over-regulated country like the Netherlands, especially given the popularity of these products. The government, partly responsible for the safety of all products sold in the Netherlands, is failing, especially now that extracts and other products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods by the EU since January 2019, because a history of safe use has not been demonstrated.
Placement on the EU’s “novel food” catalog means that a market authorization is required and products can no longer be simply placed on the market. Inclusion in the “novel food” catalog is not legally binding, but can have significant consequences. This is because the authorities in various EU countries use this catalog as a guideline for setting up and enforcing regulations. Based on this, the sale of products containing CBD is even completely prohibited in some European countries. The position of the Dutch government regarding products containing cannabinoids is still not clear. For the time being, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the NVWA have acknowledged the change in the “novel food” catalog, but have not attached any consequences to it. In a statement in March 2019, the authorities stated the following:
“At the moment we are considering the steps that need to be taken, so unfortunately we cannot make any statements about this at this time.”
Since then, not much has changed. The government does not seem to have an approach to these products. Banning is not an option because, according to the WHO, CBD has no psychoactive properties and no potential for abuse or dependence, and regulating is too complicated. As long as there are no nuisances or incidents, there is no political attention to the subject and it remains remarkably quiet. The fact that the government is leaving the market in limbo and thus fails to protect consumers is apparently not an issue.
Because of the continuing uncertainty, part of the market has decided to take control. In response, the Cannabinoids Advice Bureau Netherlands (CAN) launched a hallmark for CBD products last week. If a product bears this hallmark then the quality of this product meets an industry standard, based on the EU guidelines for food supplements. Also, a product bearing this seal is fully traceable to the seed. The details of each product will soon be made available to consumers via a separate website.
Objectives of CAN are:
- The realization of a quality standard for the production and sale of commodity law products* containing CBD and/or other cannabinoids and terpenes of natural origin.
- The realization of a legal basis for the mentioned products.
- The promotion of expertise on the mentioned products within the entire chain**, in the field of quality, effectiveness, safety and communication.
* Food, food supplements, cosmetics and other products. ** From grower, producer, importer and distributor to primary health care, retailer and consumer.
In order to achieve these objectives, the CAN has constructive consultations with various ministries and sister organizations at home and abroad several times a year.
Several producers and sellers of CBD products have indicated that they have applied for the quality mark. With the quality mark, CAN wants to show consumers, the government and health care providers that CBD products can be of good and reliable quality. It is a good thing that the sector itself takes responsibility and launches a hallmark. Quality, safety and traceability of the entire production chain are important prerequisites for any product and offer consumers the necessary security.