Seedsman Blog

Here’s Why The EU Can’t Classify CBD As A Narcotic

It’s amazing that in spite of all the scientific evidence supporting the safety of cannabidiol (CBD), there remains a need to convince the political powers-that-be to allow the production and sale of this medicinal cannabinoid. In particular, the European Commission (EC) has taken the bizarre step of suspending all applications for CBD products to be granted novel food status while it decides on whether or not to classify the compound as a narcotic.

The move came as something of a surprise to everyone in the CBD industry, which has seen huge growth in recent years thanks to the relaxing of restrictions and the opening up of new medicinal markets around the world. In January 2019, the EC classified CBD as a novel food, paving the way for its sale in Europe, yet in July of this year the EU’s executive branch back-tracked on this decision, saying that the cannabinoid would instead be regulated by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics of 1961.

The EC is now reviewing the feasibility of this temporary change in status and is expected to clarify its position in the near future by passing a permanent ruling on the classification of CBD. Yet with a consensus among scientists as to the lack of harm posed by the cannabinoid, the argument for categorising the compound as a narcotic is crumbling under the weight of an entire library of research.

CBD Doesn’t Cause Impairment While Driving

The latest study on the subject appeared today in the Journal of the American Medical Association[i], providing a definitive answer to one of the major sticking points in the debate over whether or not CBD can be classed as a narcotic. According to the study, the cannabinoid does not impair driving in any way, and is entirely safe to use before getting behind the wheel of a car.

To carry out their research, the study authors gave four different cannabis strains to 26 participants on separate days, before testing their driving ability. These included a cultivar containing nine percent CBD and less than one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a strain containing 22 percent THC and less than one percent CBD, and another that contained a mix of the two cannabinoids. The final cultivar was designated as a placebo as it contained negligible amounts of either compound.

Participants were then asked to go for a 100-kilometer drive 40 minutes after vaping each of these strains, and again four hours later. As they drove, the researchers measured their standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), which takes into account lane-weaving, swerving and overcorrecting and is known to increase when drivers are under the influence of narcotics.

Results showed that both the high-THC weed and the THC/CBD mixture caused slight increases in SDLP 40 minutes after vaping, but the high-CBD cannabis did not. In fact, SDLP was found to be slightly lower after vaping CBD than after inhaling the placebo.

In a statement, lead study author Dr Thomas Arkell – from the University of Maastricht – said: “These findings indicate for the first time that CBD, when given without THC, does not affect a subject’s ability to drive.”

Even The EU Doesn’t Believe That CBD Is A Narcotic

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about the EC’s indecision over whether to class CBD as a narcotic is the fact that the EU itself has ruled that CBD is not a narcotic. This ruling was passed last month by the EU Court of Justice in relation to the prosecution of a French company called KanaVape, which sells electronic cigarettes containing CBD.

The French government had been on KanaVape’s case since 2014, arguing that it had broken the law by producing CBD from cannabis flowers. The rules in France state that CBD can only be made from the seeds and fibres of the cannabis plant, yet the EU Court of Justice has put a definitive end to this irrational law, stating in its ruling that CBD cannot be classed as a narcotic as it has “no psychotropic effect or harmful effect on health”.  

Should the EC plough ahead with its crusade against CBD then not only would this cripple the growing European market but it would also stymie all research into the medical benefits of the cannabinoid. Fortunately, however, maintaining this anti-CBD stance now appears to be untenable, given the increasing scientific evidence against this view and the legal precedent set by the EU itself.

[i] Arkell et al., Effect of cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on driving performance: a randomized clinical trial, JAMA, December 2020 – https://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.21218

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

This post is also available in: French

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Ben Taub