The popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) products has grown enormously in recent years. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants and extracted from the leaves and flower tips of fiber hemp. Nowadays you can find products that contain CBD in almost every drugstore and health food store, from food supplements, such as CBD oil and capsules, to cosmetics. These products are used against all kinds of complaints, ranging from insomnia to eczema and from ADHD to smoking cessation.
Although products containing CBD have become enormously popular in a short time, they are hardly ever monitored. Because there is no set legal standard, the quality of products with CBD varies enormously. In most cases, consumers have no idea what they are consuming.
Upon request, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and the Healthcare and Youth Inspectorate (IGJ) state that they do not supervise these products, whereby they both to the other supervisor as the responsible authority. It is therefore unclear whether someone supervises these products, and if so who. In fact, this is unimaginable 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 have been considered novel foods by the EU since January 2019, because a history of safe use has not been demonstrated.
Novel food catalog
Placement on the Novel food catalog of the EU means that a market authorization is required and that products can no longer simply be placed on the market. Placement on the “novel food” catalog is not legally binding, but it can have major consequences. The authorities in various EU countries use this catalog as a guideline for setting up and enforcing regulations. On this basis, the sale of products containing CBD is even completely prohibited in some European countries. The position of the Dutch government on products containing cannabinoids is still unclear. 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. In a statement the authorities indicated in March 2019 that:
"At the moment we are considering the steps that need to be taken, so unfortunately we cannot comment on this at this time."
Not much has changed since then. The government does not seem to have a good approach for these products. Forbidding is not an option, because CBD according to the WHO has no psychoactive properties and offers no possibilities for abuse or dependence and regulation is too complicated. As long as there is no nuisance or incident, there is no political attention for the subject and it remains remarkably quiet. The fact that the government leaves the market behind in uncertainty and that consumer protection is not included is apparently not an issue.
Due to the constant uncertainty, part of the market has decided to take control. Following this, it has Cannabinoids Consultancy Netherlands (CAN) launched a certification mark for CBD products last week. If a product bears this quality mark, the quality of this product meets an industry standard based on the EU guidelines for food supplements. A product bearing this quality mark is also fully traceable to the seed. The details of each product will soon be made available to consumers via a separate website.
Meanwhile, various producers and sellers of CBD products have indicated that they have applied for the quality mark. With the quality mark, the CAN wants to show consumers, government and healthcare 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 quality mark. Quality, safety and traceability of the entire production chain are important conditions for every product and offer consumers the necessary certainty. The government should praise this initiative and embrace the quality mark. Unfortunately, it remains deafening again. As soon as something positive can be reported about cannabis, they apparently no longer know how to respond to it at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. A missed opportunity, as far as I'm concerned.