Drug advisers have warned that many CBD products currently on sale contain trace levels of THC, the outlawed psychoactive agent in cannabis which gets users “high”.
The government said it change the law to require monitoring of THC levels in CBD products in order to stop high levels of the substance reaching consumers. It also said it would act on recommendations to introduce a maximum acceptable level of 50 micrograms of THC in any product.
Industry representatives said the limit was too low and would harm the competitiveness of the UK market.
The CBD industry took off in the UK in the latter half of the 2010s and various oils, ointments and edible products can now be bought in chemists around the country, along with health shops such as Boots and Holland & Barrett.
Despite estimates that it will be worth £1bn to the UK economy by 2025, the industry has so far avoided proper regulation.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said in December that not one of the edible CBD products on the market had been authorised for sale. This included gummies, chocolates and other sweets.
Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the FSA, said: “We welcome the plans outlined in the paper to clarify the law on trace-controlled drug content in consumer CBD products.
“CBD cuts across various regulatory regimes for drugs, medicines and food. It will take a combined effort from multiple government departments to effectively regulate this growing industry.”
The government last year asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to recommend legal measures to regulate CBD products.
The ACMD said a limit should be set on the concentration of THC in any given CBD product. It recommended allowing no more than 50 micrograms in a single serving.
It also said the government should mandate a specific process for isolating CBD from other parts of the cannabis plant during production.
The government said it was aware it can be very difficult to extract CBD alone without THC but said it would respond to the ACMD recommendation.
The Cannabis Industry Council, an industry body, said it had serious concerns about the proposed regulations.
It said the limit of 50 micrograms would harm “the ability for UK farmers and producers to compete with imported Chinese isolated CBD, further reducing the growth potential of UK businesses”.
The council said market research found that 97 per cent of consumers had never experienced a negative side effect from CBD products without a THC limit.
A spokesperson for the CIC said: “Consumers prefer full spectrum products, with their natural ratios of cannabinoids being present.”
Plans to change the law have been packaged along with the removal of inherited EU regulations in The Benefits Of Brexit, a policy paper published by Downing Street on Monday.