And on Dec. 2, the European Union Commission announced it would classify cannabidiol, or CBD, as a “Novel Food.” The latter move reversed the EU Commission’s earlier indication that it might classify CBD as a narcotic.
Of course neither of these actions on either side of the Pond represented a done deal: Hemp which contains less than 0.3 percent THC has been legal at the federal level in the United States since the 2018 Farm Bill. But ingestible CBDs with significant THC content face challenges, which legalization through the MORE Act would address.
The MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances list – but leave it to individual states to determine their own cannabis policy –would still require U.S. Senate passage to become law. And that’s seen as unlikely as long as the Republicans control that chamber of Congress.
Meanwhile, petitions to the EU Commission by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and individual companies to award CBDs that coveted “novel food” status have yet to be approved.
Despite those caveats, however, both sides are already celebrating.
“The immediate reaction was really excited, ‘great news’ — looking forward in the industry to the legitimacy of full legalization,” Graciela Moreno, executive director of the CBD Industry Association, said in a phone interview, referring to her organization’s diverse 300 members.
“The second reaction was, ‘Great, finally there is representation that is reflecting how the general public looks at [legalization],’” Moreno said.
Legalizing cannabis at the federal level as well as at the individual state level “would be a better blanket of rules and regulations, of continuity,” Moreno said. Colorado’s rules are different from California’s, which are different from Oklahoma’s, she pointed out. Then there are the services CBD companies need and can’t always get: “In any industry you’re allowed to get bank accounts; you’re allowed to get loans, small business financing,” the director said.
Then there is the matter of hemp’s medical benefits being unavailable in any state that doesn’t allow medical or recreational cannabis. And finally there is what Moreno termed as the welcome inclusion in the MORE Act of decriminalization and expungement of minor marijuana offenses, which disproportionately impact minorities. Importantly, Vice President-elect and California Senator Kamala Harris is sponsoring the MORE Act in the Senate, where the CBDIA will continue its mission for passage, Moreno said. “We’re not giving up anytime soon. We hope Kamala Harris will stick to her word,” Moreno said.
From Brussels, meanwhile, EIHA, Europe’s pan-industrial hemp association, released a Dec. 3 statement in which its president Daniel Kruse called the EU Commission’s action “a truly historic moment.”
In an email, EIHA Managing Director Lorenza Romanese filled in the details about three developments that she said helped prompt the Commission’s turnaround:
The Commission voted to accept the World Health Organization’s recommendation to remove cannabis from the U.N.’s Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention, which had been reserved for substances with “particularly dangerous properties” and little or no therapeutic value.
CBD from the Czech Republic, where it’s legal, was imported into France, but the e-liquid cartridges the CBD was placed into in that country were illegal because France allows only the fiber and seeds of hemp to be used commercially. A Marseilles court gave the company’s directors suspended sentences and €10,000 fines. The French Court of Appeal then asked the EU Court of Justice whether France’s law was compatible with the EU’s rules about the free movement of goods within its member states. The EU court – citing that 1961 U.N. Convention and a 1971 convention on psychotropic drugs – said it was not compatible.
Wrote Romanese: “Probably this [Commission turnaround] was motivated by a [rising] awareness about patients and their need to have regulated access to medical cannabis.” That’s good news for European companies which focus on CBDs and other products made from hemp, Romanese indicated, though she also pointed out that industrial hemp, which EIHA focuses on, is out of the scope of the Single Convention.