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European CBD industry, the next episode

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Shifts in the regulatory environment across Europe could offer great potential to the broader cannabidiol (CBD) industry.

One of the biggest challenges facing the global market for cannabidiol (CBD) is the regulatory environment, as hemp and CBD regulatory aspects are quite complex and depend in many cases on countries’ laws. For example, French and European laws define more precisely what is authorized or prohibited, bringing more clarity.

On 31 December 2021, French authorities published a law on the use of hemp (Cannabis sativa) replacing the Law of 22 August 1990. What are the major changes between those laws?

  • All parts of the plant (flowers, leaves, seeds, and fibers) are authorized for the industrial production of hemp extracts which is a major change compared to the previous law authorizing only the use of fibers and seeds.
  • The maximum permitted THC level is 0.3% (against 0.2% previously).
  • Authorised varieties of hemp in France have been extended to those listed in the European catalog. Hemp varieties cultivated in France and used for the industrial production of hemp extracts have to be listed on this catalog.
  • Consumers can still buy hemp flowers; council of state has suspended the ban on selling raw CBD leaves and flowers from authorized varieties.

In Europe, CBD is considered as a novel food, meaning that CBD and foods containing it cannot be marketed without prior evaluation by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). Actually, EFSA received around 400 novel food applications for CBD products including plant-derived CBD products. The time needed to approve those demands is hard to evaluate since the process to validate a novel food application is time-consuming.

On the road for a bright future

CBD has become a favourite wellness ingredient among consumers, and positive evolution of the European regulation is contributing to market growth. A growing number of people are investigating the alleged health and wellness benefits of CBD, with consumers stating their top reasons for using it are anxiety, pain and insomnia (CBD Intel, US Consumer Survey, November 2021).

Vantage Market Research estimates the global CBD market will reach US$47.22 billion by 2028, up from $4.9 Billion in 2021, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3%. In France, the market is estimated at €700 Million in 2022 (for smokable hemp products and loose hemp leaves and flowers) with 50% of market share for food product, according to UIVEC.

The success and increasing popularity of CBD has sparked interest and research into other non-narcotic cannabinoids. Hemp is a complex plant that contains more than 480 components including cannabinoid compounds. Each of them has different active properties and legal statuses around the world. Cannabinoids of current interest are cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabichromène (CBC).

CBD and other cannabinoids will drive new product development and represent a real growth opportunity.

How to spot quality CBD?

In the last years, the CBD industry has boomed amid uncertain regulation, and it is quite legitimate to wonder about product quality. Accessibility is not always a guarantee of quality.

Several criteria must be considered when selecting a CBD supplier or buying a CBD product. First, ensuring the product is made from high quality hemp. Hemp should be grown using farming practices that respect the environment to yield hemp extracts free of pesticides, fungicides, or heavy metals; organic certification is a strong positive. Further, ensuring that extracts are prepared from authorised varieties using safe, clean, and modern extraction methods. Finally, testing to guarantee that the product contains the level of CBD claimed and a compliant THC content.

To guarantee the quality of hemp extracts and CBD products, countries are getting organized. In France, UIVEC is working on a label to ensure the traceability of hemp extracts as well as product compliance. L’UIVEC (Union des Industriels pour la Valorisation des Extraits de Chanvre) a CBD trade group, represents the entire value chain of the hemp extracts sector from hemp production to distribution, including processing, analytical challenges, and advice.

Hemp extract made in France

The Law of 31 December 2021 will pave the way for the development of the French hemp industry. Indeed, the cultivation, industrial production and commercial use of hemp is now legal in France.

The French CBD industry had to deal with a complex regulatory framework which has slowed down its growth compared to other EU countries. But France remains by far the biggest hemp grower in Europe. With nearly a third of European production and several areas of expertise on the whole value chain of the sector, France is ready to become one of the world leaders in the hemp extracts industry.

Asdjad AboudouAsdjad Aboudou is product manager with Robertet Health & Beauty Division. Robertet, a French company leader in natural raw material, entered the CBD market first in the United States and more recently in Europe. Robertet works with many hemp European sources, and will shortly introduce hemp extracts from 100% French supply chain: French biomass and extraction made in Grasse.

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