Over the last few years, as the global prohibition of the Cannabis industry lifts, we have seen a massive revival in the Hemp and CBD industry – the industrial part of the hemp plant with a legal level of only 0.2% THC (Europe), or 0.3% THC (USA, Canada, Australia) or 1% in Switzerland
Rebekah Shaman BA (Hons), MSc, Managing Director, British Hemp Alliance
Since 2015, high streets are selling many new and innovative hemp and CBD products, made from all parts of the hemp plant. The CBD market specifically, is growing rapidly, but there is still a lot of confusion about what it is.
All parts of the hemp plant, root, stalk, seed, flower, and leaf are important for human health and well-being, but what is CBD? Is it safe? Is it legal? Will I get high?
This article debunks the myths and offers some top tips on how to choose the best CBD and other hemp products.
When we talk about hemp, we are talking about certain varieties of the genus Cannabis Sativa L. used for food, cosmetics or industrial processes. All products made from hemp are legal because they contain the legal levels of THC.
Despite the recent boom in hemp products, the hemp plant has been around for centuries. The first documented use of cannabis is from the 13th century BC, when Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung took the plant to relieve various ailments. Pope Martin V (1369-1431 AD) ate hemp soup, and it was rumoured that Queen Victoria used cannabis to help her with menstrual cramps during her reign.
Hemp also played a very important part in British history. In the reigns of Henry IIIV and Elizabeth I, it was illegal not to grow hemp as the plant was an essential material for the British Navy and maritime industry. It was considered so valuable people were fined if they did not grow the required crops, and they could even pay their taxes with it.
After the prohibition of the hemp plant in America, in 1937, and then by the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in UK, all hemp products disappeared from the shelves and were forgotten.
Hemp was made legal again, in Britain, in 1993 and UK farmers have been growing hemp for its stalk and seed ever since.
Hemp seed is one of the most nutritious, delicious and healthy food seeds available. It contains the perfect balance of the good fats, Omegas 3, 6, and 9, Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLAs), and all the amino acids that we need for a healthy body. It is also very high in protein, so a great alternative for meat free and vegan diets.
Hempseed oil is a tasty salad dressing and can be used as an alternative to olive oil. It lubricates the joints and tissues and helps prevent arthritis. Because it is rich in fatty acids and healthy oils, which nourish and feed the skin, hemp oil also makes excellent cosmetics, skin creams and anti-aeging products.
Not only is hemp a powerful carbon sequester and phytoremediator that sucks up approx. 11 tonnes of carbon per hectare1, and cleans heavy metals from the soil, it’s stalk can be turned into thousands of bio-degradable products, including fabrics, textiles, bio-plastics, bio-fuels, packaging, paper, alternative wood products, construction, and furniture.
However, with the reintroduction of CBD extracts from the hemp flower into the market place over the last few years, there has been an enormous growth in the hemp and CBD market.
At present the domestic CBD market in the UK is valued at £300 million and is expected to rise to £1billion by 20252. However, it is still illegal for British farmers to harvest, process, extract, or transport the hemp flower or leaf. These parts of the plant must be destroyed in the field, unlike the stalk and seed.
All CBD products that are sold in the UK come from Europe, North America and China; where the legislation allows processing of the hemp flowers. A hectare of hemp flower is valued at around £33,000 (Ref: CMC CBD Report 2019), which means that, at present, British farmers are restricted from benefiting from this potentially lucrative crop.
When we talk about CBD, we are referring to only one of the hundreds of non-psychotropic, non-intoxicating, and non-addictive cannabinoids contained in the leaf and flower of the hemp plant. These cannabinoids are essential for human and animal health and wellbeing.
All animals have an ‘Endocannabinoid System’ (ECS), an essential ‘engine’ system, which is directly responsible for regulating our stress response, immune and brain functionality. Hemp flowers contain the natural levels of cannabinoids to regulate and maintain homeostasis in the body by nourishing these ECS receptors.
Therefore, the hemp flower naturally helps prevent a huge range of immune and brain diseases and ailments including insomnia, pain relief, epilepsy, anxiety, and depression. Since the global prohibition, all hemp flower and leaf extracts were removed from our diet leaving us Cannabinoid deficient and more prone to these kinds of illnesses.
A case study, published in the Permanente Journal3 provides clinical data that supports the use of CBD oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep, and the World Health Organisation stated in 2019 that ‘CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”4
In order to maintain the purity of CBD and ensure that what is being sold is not ‘snake oil’, it is essential that the industry starts to self-regulate, just as the ‘organics’ market did.
It is in the process of creating its own sets of standards and procedures, and weeding out any businesses that make false claims, have incorrect labelling, and cannot show proper and regular laboratory tests for their products.
As the industry waits for regulation to catch up, the CBD oil market has become a bit of a minefield. However, most of the companies registered in the UK are run by people who have benefitted from taking CBD and want to share their experience with others. Do some research and you will find inspiring stories of people who were able to change their lives with CBD and are experts in helping you find what you need.
Despite the potential growth and expansion of this exciting new industry, and the potential it contains for British farmers and retailers, there is another huge threat hanging over the whole industry.
Last year the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) suddenly, and without notifying the industry, classified hemp derived Cannabinoids as a ‘novel food’. To be a novel food it must be shown that hemp was never used as a food before 1997. Despite all the historical data and case studies5 presented that Cannabis has been used and consumed in Europe and all over the world for thousands of years, the EU ruled that there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
This means that all European CBD producers and sellers must now apply for the Novel Food License, which can take up to 3-5 years and cost hundreds of thousands of euros. This will effectively destroy all small CBD businesses and extractors, and means only big corporations will be able to benefit from this burgeoning industry.
This short-sightedness by the EU is destroying the possibilities of a thriving hemp industry that creates new jobs, boosts the local economy, provides tax revenue, and new income streams for farmers.
In the post-Brexit landscape, an unrestricted British hemp and CBD industry delivers several key goals in the UK, relevant to both agricultural and environmental policies. It provides a range of environmentally friendly and carbon negative products and healthy foods, while actively mitigating climate change.
A thriving domestic hemp industry can also kickstart a new green industrial revolution, boost local economies, and help to seed a brighter future for British farmers and retailers.
TOP TIPS FOR BUYING CBD
To avoid problems, follow these tips that will help you buy the best CBD products.
- It is always important to buy from businesses you trust. If they can’t answer your questions then try another company who can. Those who know their product will know which product is right for you.
- Make sure the CBD comes from a reputable British business (avoid eBay and Amazon).
- Ensure that your product is organic and the hemp has been grown in organic soil with no pesticides. This is important because hemp is a bio-accumulator, and absorbs pesticides and other heavy metals from the soil and stores it in its flowers and stem.
- Make sure you know and understand how much CBD is in the bottle and that there is clear labelling on the concentration of both THC and CBD in the extract.
- Ask how your CBD has been extracted. There are various ways of extracting the oil, including cold-pressing, use of solvents such as ethanol, and supercritical CO2 extraction.
- Finally, make sure there are regular laboratory tests being done to ensure that the company are complying with the law and what they are selling.
Referencing: 1) Article. 2) “CBD in the UK: Towards a responsible, innovative and high-quality cannabidiol industry,” CMC CBD Report 2019. 3) https://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/search/results/49-the-permanente-journal/case-studies/6244-effectiveness-of-cannabidiol-oil-for-pediatric-anxiety-and-insomnia-as-part-of-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-a-case-report.html
4) Summary: 40th ECDD (2018) Agenda item 4.1. 5) EIHA Novel Food Opposition (14 Relevant Cases within Europe)