Welcome to episode 4 of the Canna Machine podcast. Meet Guy Coxall chairman of Hemptank and director of TrustCanna, Mike Harlington chair of the CTA, and hear from David from Adact Medical who talks about product testing.
Guy Coxall – Hemptank -Chair
When it comes to the common pitfalls new CBD brands face there’s not much Guy hasn’t seen or heard. We talk about CBD compliance and what future legislation may bring.
My job is compliance director, so I make sure that products are what they say they are, that they are safe and that they are well-manufactured.
What are the common issues that people face in this industry?
In the UK CBD products are classed as food supplements and there’s a lot of companies selling isolate in food products and it’s actually illegal in the European Union under novel foods – so that’s quite an issue. Companies making medical claims and pet products aren’t actually allowed in the UK, so it’s been a bit of a roller coaster the last few years. We’re having different government departments and the EU which we deal with.
I can see why it’s difficult for some people new to the industry when they are talking to suppliers from all over the world and these suppliers will be creating products and some are using isolate in food for example – which may be legal in one country but obviously in the UK its not.
Absolutely and I’m happy to help anyone with compliance issues. It’s so important that the industry comes together and works with the government rather than against it because otherwise we won’t have an industry here.Guy Coxall – Hemptank & TrustCanna
If a new business was listening right now and they’re about to start launching a CBD product, what should they be checking off their list?
Medical claims are by far the biggest thing. We all get excited about CBD, we all know the properties of it (that it has medicinal properties) but you just can’t say it if it’s a food supplement, because otherwise you need a medicines licence which cost millions of pounds and you can get in a lot of trouble. So that’s one of the main key things.
The other thing is THC levels and some companies are selling whole bud for smoking. It’s illegal to sell whole bud, but if you process it, chop it up and sell it as tea that’s fine.
We do see people carrying on selling bud and resin (or flower). Why do you think people are drawn to it or carry on selling flower online?
People are passionate about it. As I suppose it’s got good marketing potential because it looks like weed. But what they don’t understand is the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act (MoDA) states that any flower of any Cannabis plant irrelevant of the THC levels is classed as a Class B drug here. They’re risking their whole business and a criminal record. I mean it’s really not worth it.
The Home Office were too late to start enforcing this, it’s only in the last 6 months there’s been several enforcements where people are going to court over this. Really if you’re going to set up a business in this industry (with it being such a complex industry) it’s worth doing your due diligence.
Do you think it’s a matter of time before the authorities do take more action, or will the laws simply soften and it won’t even be an issue anymore?
I just don’t think they’ve got the capacity to enforce it. Early this year in January the World Health Organization made recommendations for cannabis to be reduced from a schedule one drug and also for hemp to be removed from any drug scheduling.
There is going to be a vote of the UN hopefully in March next year which I’ll be attending. If that goes through then MoDA will no longer exist and we can sell bud/ flower and anything below 0.2% THC, which will really help the market. So that’s what I’d really like to see happen. I think it’s just outdated laws which are stupid – you can’t get high off hemp!
Some people are against compliance and just want to sell everything they can and to a certain degree I agree.
I think we should go for full decriminalisation soon. It’s a medicinal herb that’s been used for thousands of years, that we’re meant to be with. Everybody should have access to it.Guy Coxall – Hemptank & TrustCanna
It shouldn’t be under MHRA guidelines with pharmaceutical companies because the whole plant has 500 compounds that all work synergistically together. You can’t patent it. We need to get away from synthesized cannabinoids, from isolated and have the whole plant, that’s how it’s supposed to be with us and every mammal on the planet.
I know people in this industry who grow what’s illegal cannabis (high THC for medicinal use) and they give it (not sell it) to people who are terminally ill and doctors are actually referring their patients to these people who could go to prison for like 15 years. It’s messed up, it’s ridiculous – I t needs to change!
But I think there is a perfect storm coming in this industry. Everything is coming together at the right time – we’re seeing worldwide changes. It’s only a matter of time.Guy Coxall – Hemptank & TrustCanna
Recreational, medical, call it what you want. It’s all cannabis with different cannabinoid profiles. I don’t even think recreational really exists. Most people who take cannabis, whether they eat it or smoke it, will be doing so for some reason. It’s reducing their stress, their anxiety or they just want to relax in the evening after work. Hanging out with your friends, getting creational – do you think the Beatles didn’t smoke weed?
I’m wondering what your thoughts are about the situation with farmers in the UK. The fact they are not allowed to use the bud and flower?
Its criminal and as I said I’m hoping this UN vote in March next year will change that so that it gets removed from any drug scheduling and we can utilise the whole plant.
It’s such and amazing plant. It’s amusing when you come to something like this the hemp and CBD Expo in March earlier this year. I’m the chairman of Hemptank (the UK think tank for the hemp industry) – and I was the only person there representing hemp everything else was CBD.
We really need to look at the plant and realise there’s more to hemp than cannabinoids. There are so many different uses, carbon negative homes, bio-plastics all these different things – even energy storage.
You’ve got around 115 cannabinoids and they all work together. CBD and THC are both important it depends on you know why somebody is using it.
MS is normally a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, so obviously you don’t just want to be having a CBD product. Whereas epilepsy is mainly CBD with a tiny amount of THC, which is like what we are selling in the market.
Natural cannabis has good levels of CBD as well as THC – its really because its been hybridized in the last 30 years to create high THC no CBD strains – which is about 90% of what you get on the black market here.
The thing is I think we need to look at the whole plant because we’ve got Brexit around the corner, farmers are losing subsidies, they don’t know what to do. We could lose jobs, we’re not creating our own food. So what we need is a green industrial revolution with all parts of the plant – creating carbon negative housing, energy and also looking at the medical side.
They legalised medical cannabis in November last year – but there are hardly any NHS prescriptions because doctors are afraid to prescribe it.Guy Coxall – Hemptank & TrustCanna
What do you see happening in the next 5 years?
The hemp industry growing massively. I see the continuation of the CBD industry. I think doctors will start prescribing medical cannabis, but what I’d really like to see is full decriminalisation so that we can use the plant in a regulated market but be able to grow our own. Be able to grow it in our garden, be able to make things from it, in our gardens, make things from it and just utilise this plant for everything it is.
We need to upscale the industry. I’m doing some consultancy work for people who want to grow medical cannabis here, so we can have our own medical cannabis industry and our own hemp industry. Cut the price down, and cut the price down of CBD products.
More info: hemptank.co.uk
Mike Harlington – CTA – Chair
Mike is chair of the Cannabis Trades Association. The CTA work with the UK government to help build a legal and sustainable UK cannabis industry. They also help members with legal matters and compliance. Unfortunately, when I recorded the interview with Mike things got a bit noisy around us when we were at the Hemp and CBD Expo – so apologies if the sound quality is not the best.
The CTA was set up in 2016, Set up in response partially to the MHRA announcement on CBD regarding sellers selling it with medicinal benefits. Since then obviously we formed an agreement with the MHRA and we now sell it as a food supplement.
As much as the UK would like to think there is a medicinal cannabis market there isn’t now. But things are changing and we’re very much involved with that and the legislation going forward.
We’re the largest trade association representing cannabinoid companies in the world now. We’re getting on for 1000 members and consistently growing with members from 34 countries.
Basically, we’re the only people in the industry at this point in time to ensure essential quality standards are met.
I saw your talk earlier and one of the things that keeps coming up is to do with CBD and flower. Can you just give me a quick overview about the status of flour in the UK?
Flower directly contravenes the Misuse of Drugs Act (MoDA). It says that full, total separation of the seed to stalk must occur. And a separate piece of legislation says that no organic material can be offered as a smokable unless its a tobacco.
So anyone offering CBD bud, is not only breaking the MoDA but also breaching the 1930 act.
The industry is heading for an implosion. It is heading directly to contradict a lot of the authority’s views. We have the novel foods issue – which is not the easiest thing to deal with – but there is a way through. But suggesting that CBD is novel (which the European Authorities are doing) is a rather crazy situation.
A couple of weeks ago we issued a statement to announce that we would not be joining the other trade associations in putting together a novel foods application.
We are going to see a decline in sellers. In fact, we are already starting to see a decline in sellers. The number of non-compliant sellers is slowly but surely going down. They are (to excuse the pun) being weeded out. The industry itself doesn’t like them.
In the next 3 years I would like us to have proper, regulated, licensed medicinal products. Right now, there are lots of different regulations by lots of different countries and there is no particular cohesion between any of them.
More info: Cannabistrades.org
David – Adact Medical – Lab Tester
In this next section I speak to David from Adact Medical about testing. CBD is classed as a novel food in the UK and as such any product going to market – whether it’s oil, a balm or gummy bears, needs to be tested to ensure regulatory standards are met. David talks about product testing, compliance and the future of CBD.
We’re a testing lab in the UK and what we do is test products for the end user, manufacturers and farming. We do isolates, distillates, gummy bears, drinks, balms. You name it, we will test it.
We do a full spectrum test on the CBD which means we test for 14 cannabinoids which should be in the product. We test for heavy metals and pesticides. We basically test everything that needs to be shown for a product to be allowed to be sold.
How we do it is that we receive samples. We blind test. We do 3 tests on the same product. What we’re testing for it to make sure there’s no THC above 0.2% which is the legal limit within the UK.
We’ve got a lot of people that import and buy in from other places and we are making sure everything that they supposedly buy in is correct.
Simple basics: COA (Certificate of analysis), COC (Certificate of conformity, batch documentation – its all about traceability.
If they are a manufacturer, they should be supplying a COA. What we’re finding is that there is a COA but the certificate of analysis doesn’t match the batch sample that we’ve tested.
The certificate of analysis has got to be from start to finish point on that product.
Certificate of conformity means that what they are supplying you is what it says on the packet. That’s what we want to make sure everybody is following.
If people are white-labeling, they wouldn’t normally be doing this testing, they’d be relying on their white label supplier? But if they bring stuff in from overseas then they need to be responsible?
Yes. If they are saying they are white labelling, then they should be provided with this information.
It’s got to have paperwork from start to finish, as simple as that. We make sure at the end of the day what they’ve got in that bottle is what it says on the label and the customer is getting what they should be.
In terms of the next few years in the UK, where do you see regulation going?
I give it 18 months and I see the regulation will be looking into making CBD into a medicine. That means that they’re going to separate and standardise, that’s my opinion.
What they’ll do is (because they know it works) is try and isolate it. I do think he’s going to become a medicine at some point.
If it becomes a medicine where will this leave your smaller brands?
It won’t. I think the smaller brands will go…
You’re going to have to DMF, GAF – drug master files – which cost a lot of money.
You’ll have the usual products that will be VMS (vitamins, minerals and supplements). You’ll be able to carry on selling them, but they’ll be at a low dosage. The ones that really work – will come under medicines.
What are the sorts of costs involved in doing a test?
We generally charge £150 for a product an individual would send in. It depends on the size and how many we do. It can come down to £90.00. We do heavy metals, everything and we do the full spectrum test.
More info: Adactmedical.com