The report by DevelRx LTD and The Canna Consultants has raised concerns about the testing that businesses must take part in under the FSA guidelines.
DevelRx and The Canna Consultants have stated in the report that they believe the testing is ‘unethically acceptable’ and ‘scientifically unjust’ while drawing attention to the replicated animal testing for CBD products.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) determined that all CBD products were to be classed as Novel Food in the UK and EU. They developed testing guidelines with guidance provided by the Committee on Toxicology (COT) in 2020 and declared that all businesses must submit scientific proof that their products were safe if they were to remain on sale. COT developed the guidance for their guidelines using data from GW Pharmaceuticals.
The report also draws attention to the ‘cherry picking’ of data given that the guidance is based on just one of 15 trials by GW Pharma for Epidiolex. The report stated that this is ‘superficial, scientifically flawed and has placed reliance in part on a biased data source that was part of a pharmaceutical company’s lobbying campaign to the US government to restrict the non-medical use of CBD by the US public.’
The authors developed a list of issues that they found within the data and testing which has formed the basis of the report.
Speaking with Cannabis Wealth, Steve Oliver, one of the co-founders of Canna Consultants raised his concerns about the testing CBD companies are forced to undertake.
“When the COT made their assessment, it was based on a document that GW Pharma supplied. That document is clearly a lobbying document. They highlighted adverse effects which didn’t stand up scientifically and contradicted their own efficacy and evidence of the safety of CBD at the levels we mention. So we have concerns and we have been raising this with regulators for 18 months and it’s been falling on deaf ears.”
He explained: “We got to access all of the clinical data then we asked them to conduct their own assessment and have it peer-reviewed. We found ten points where we demonstrate there are several statements in the COT document that contradicted the data they presented.
“They essentially cherry-picked some adverse events which were not representative of the much larger study they conducted. Those adverse events can be attributed to the other drugs that people were taking. We are very concerned that COT swallowed this and didn’t have the scientific experience, or was not prepared to drill down and test that. So they accepted the commercial organisation’s data.”
Some of the data from the Phase I GW trial raised concerns about the effect of CBD on the liver and potential reactions with other drugs. This led to the FSA suggestion that consumers keep within the recommended 70 mg per day despite the data showing no cause for concern on doses much higher than this.
The result of the new guidelines and increased testing has caused chaos for brands, in particular small to medium companies who may struggle to afford to test. This has led to every manufacturing company planning on making an application for their products having to conduct an extended 96-day, repeat dosing, rat toxicity study for each individual item. The effect for some brands has been devastating. Not only that, it has raised serious issues for brands that label their products as vegan or cruelty-free.
Animals are often forced to take CBD in these trials which are required for each ingredient. In May 2021, it had been reported that there were already over 800 applications to meet the deadline of 31 March. A high percentage of brands were forced to withdraw their applications due to costs or were rejected due to not being able to meet the high standards set.
Steve highlighted that there are a huge amount of companies who have tried but are unable to afford the fees causing them to ‘go to the wall’ as a result. He stressed that small companies are trying to do everything they can while the pharmaceutical companies already have their applications validated.
Steve said: “It forced people to go down the consortium route because some people who are selling wellness products brand them as vegan and cruelty-free. They are being corralled into sponsoring or contributing to animal testing which they don’t want to do. They have been told that if they don’t do that then they won’t have a business. Ethically, that is outrageous and morally it’s wrong.”
He added: “We are not against animal testing as required and needed for certain drugs but there is a requirement for that. Why would you go and retest on rodents when you already have the data for humans?”
The testing on animals raises serious ethical concerns for an industry that often carries products with cruelty-free or vegan labels. While some companies do publically make the choice, the report draws attention to the fact that many consumers may not know what is involved with this testing.
“It is important that people understand what is being tested. They are not sitting there cuddling these animals. They are being killed at the end of the trial and a necropsy takes place. Animals don’t naturally like to eat CBD oil or isolate so they are force-fed. It’s fundamentally wrong and we think it’s probably unlawful if it was put to the test.”
The effect for the industry if it were to gain a reputation for animal testing could be devastating. It raises further questions about how much retailers who supply a variety of brands know about what exactly is involved in the testing.
Steve said: “I’m not sure that some of these retailers know. If you have high-end retailers such as supermarkets or chemists selling a product that they thought was tested on animals then it would be removed. It’s very strange and damaging for our industry. So many people have gone down this route without challenging it.”
As the industry has moved to accept the regulations, guidelines and increased testing, is it now so far gone that it cannot change? If the guidelines were to change, how does this affect the companies that have already paid for extensive reports? The expense of testing for companies could mean companies would take issue with changes.
“We’ve got to realise that a lot of this testing isn’t taking place in the UK under good laboratory practices. The vast majority is taking place in America where you can go to places and as long as you have a chequebook, they will test it on whatever species you want. We hope someone will take notice because it’s wrong but the problem is, they have encouraged people to do this testing and now they have submitted it.”
He concluded: “They are tied up in knots now because if you are a company that spent a million pounds doing all of this testing, submitted your dossier then probably, quite rightly, you are going to have an issue with the regulator if they were to have a policy change. That can’t stop you trying to do the right thing and this is not the right thing on so many levels.”
Cannabis Wealth has reached out to the FSA and COT for comment.
Cannaray to drive brand awareness following successful fundraise
Blue Array will be assisting the company in its digital campaigns.
UK CBD brand, Cannaray has appointed Blue Array to lead its PR strategy and activity for 2022.
The appointment follows the successful completion last month’s groundbreaking £10m funding round.
The round included major participants including the UK’s largest media-for-equity fund, Channel 4 Ventures – a first-of-its-kind backing in the European cannabis sector – as well as Three Bridges Private Capital and Alpha Blue Ocean.
Head of digital and communications at Cannaray, Jessica Mills, commented: “We are having a fantastic year of growth, bringing Cannaray’s CBD revolution to new consumers across the UK.
“Since appointing Blue Array to drive our SEO, they have proved to be a valuable agency partner and we are delighted to be deepening our partnership through Digital PR.
“The Blue Array team brings a huge amount of energy and passion to their approach, and we look forward to working with them moving forwards.”
Head of Digital PR at Blue Array, Jodie Harris, commented: “Cannaray CBD is an inspiring brand and has an ever-growing following.
“We are thrilled to be in partnership with Cannaray and to focus on delivering the brand’s core messaging whilst ensuring they dominate through organic search for the year ahead.
“We know this year is big for Cannaray and we are excited to be a part of the journey.”
Cannaray was the first CBD brand to invest in major brand advertising in the UK. In 2021 they began a national television and out of home campaign featuring brand ambassador and UK TV Presenter Claudia Winkleman.
Blue Array’s Digital PR arm which launched in August last year is tasked to drive awareness campaigns and educate the public about adopting CBD into their lifestyle as well as raise the brand’s visibility through media relations and product promotion.
New chief technology officer appointed at High Tide
Greg Fleury has joined the CBD company.
Greg Fleury has been appointed as chief technology officer (CFO) at High Tide.
Fleury will bring over 20 years experience to the role. Fleury will apply his knowledge of developing and managing digital operations teams, web platform design, analytics, search engine optimisation, and e-commerce in the retail, oil and gas, and utilities sectors.
President and CEOof High Tide, Raj Grover, commented: “It gives me great pleasure to announce the addition of Greg Fleury to High Tide’s executive team. Greg is an avid technological innovator with many years of experience and a track record of success.
“I plan on working closely with him over the coming months to take the digital and e-commerce components of High Tide’s integrated cannabis ecosystem to new heights.
“I would also like to thank Sean Geng for all of his efforts as High Tide’s Chief Technology Officer over the last year. Sean will remain on board with our company as a technology consultant, and I look forward to his continued contributions,” added Mr. Grover.
In Fleury’s prior role as vice president of digital and technology for Edo Japan, a Canadian fast food restaurant chain specialising in Japanese Teppan-style cooking, he led the development of that company’s ordering app, website, data warehouse, and analytics systems.
As CFO, Fleury will be responsible for leading High Tide’s global technology and digital operations, overseeing the development of digital platforms, digital commerce, security, and analytics, as well as managing High Tide’s IT infrastructure.
Fleury commented: ”I am excited to be joining a company that is as dynamic and fast-growing as High Tide is. Over the past year, High Tide has established itself as an e-commerce leader within the global cannabis space, and I was particularly drawn to the company because of this.
“I am eager to begin working to optimise High Tide’s digital platforms, building on our already-solid footing to keep us at the forefront of the cannabis sector’s technological evolution.”
The Canadian company announced in 2021 that it is making moves to enter the UK CBD market. In October, High Tide acquired Scotland-based Blessed CBD for £9.06m – a step towards solidifying itself as a major player within the global e-commerce marketplace for hemp-derived CBD products.
As part of the acquisition, Blessed’s founder and CEO, Vithurs Thiru joined the High Tide team as senior manager of research, helping grow High Tide’s CBD business globally.
Cellular Goods: Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping overcome ad restrictions
Cannabis Wealth speaks to Cellular Goods about advertising and sales restrictions and its appearance on Amazon’s new UK CBD product pilot.
Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, discusses how Amazon’s CBD pilot is helping the company overcome barriers from major online platforms when it comes to advertising and selling cannabinoid products.
The UK has a high demand for cannabinoid-based products. According to a report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the CBD market generated £690m in annual sales in 2021, and projects that it will reach nearly £1B by 2025.
Estimating the UK CBD market to be one of the largest in the world, the report notes that surveys from Dynata and YouGov indicate between 4 to 6 million UK adults have tried CBD.
CBD companies in the UK struggle to advertise products through usual marketing channels such as Google and other social media sites. This is a problem that does not seem to be moving, says Cellular Goods CEO, Anna Chokina, who suggests the platforms could play a more proactive role in the UK marketplace in their respective fields.
With the lack of marketing access to these platforms, Chokina highlights that the Amazon marketplace was a natural choice to host Cellular Goods’ products.
Chokina commented: “There is a considerable demand for products, yet somehow the information flow from the companies that play in this industry to the end customer is quite difficult.
“There is no lack of variety in terms of what’s available in the marketplace, but it’s very hard to understand what the products do and how they work. What is CBD, what is CBG, plant based, non-plant based, biosynthesised?
“It can be very hard to understand for the average consumer. It’s very hard as manufacturers and producers not only to sell our products but also to deliver truthful information to the customers about what the industry is and what the products do.”
Amazon approached Cellular Goods to take part in its new pilot trial of CBD products in the UK at the same time the company was discovering the limitations of Google and Meta. The eCommerce giant has already demonstrated that it is not shy about cannabis with its lobbying efforts for reform in the US having already removed cannabis testing from its pre-employment screenings, and now, its new CBD pilot is showing its support for the UK sector.
“We are quite happy to take part in this pilot because at least this way we have access to the Amazon consumer base that are searching for cannabinoid-based products,” said Chokina.
Cellular Goods will be featuring a number of its products on the platform, such as its cosmetic Look Better range which includes its new CBG face serum – the UK’s first CBG-based serum to prevent the signs of aging caused by UV light exposure and inflammation.
The company produced research on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cannabinoids CBG and CBD, which demonstrated the cannabinoids as contenders for other popular anti-inflammatory and anti-aging ingredients such as retinol and vitamin C serums, whilst also being much kinder for skin.
Chokina continued: “This was Cellular Goods way of ensuring that people who search for cannabinoid-based products were aware of our brand. As a startup, you have to look for ways to get your product out there, to get your name out.”
Many customers may not be aware of some of the cosmetic benefits of cannabinoids, and Chokina emphasises that customer education is key for the CBD market.
“I think consumer education is very important. I think one side effect from Meta and Google not taking a more proactive approach to allow companies to advertise freely or to trade freely on their platforms, is the fact that consumers are clueless,” said Chokina.
“They do not know the difference between CBD or CBG, they don’t know the amazing promises these ingredients can bring.
“So, we as the brand would like to become that voice that drives clarity, and hopefully, in time, the credibility will come with our name as well, that we’re only going to put the products in the market if they’re justified from the scientific standpoint.
“Science is very much who we are, so we want to make sure that what we bring is substantiated and it’s consistent as well.”
Chokina highlights that Cellular Goods has undertaken a 360-degree media campaign that includes billboards across London and Manchester, which will help drive customers to the Amazon platform as well as its own website marketplace.
Chokina said: “We have partnerships with Conde Nast with GQ with Vogue. So, there is a lot of influencer strategy involved as well.
“We’re working with bloggers and advertising, so, we have limitations on Meta and Google, but it doesn’t mean that the customers are not going to know about us. I don’t think one campaign is going to educate the market to get the customer base and get the sales growing. It’s just the start.
“We are pleased and humbled to be approached by Amazon because it’s also a sign that the industry is developing. It’s a sign that the wind is turning. So, it is definitely very positive for us. We are very much focused on our customers.
“If our customers prefer to shop, for instance, in some of the retail stores or in the pure play beauty stores, online that that’s where we would like to be because we are very much focused on making it easy for them to buy us.
“As part of our expansion to Europe and beyond, this is also going to be an integral part of our go-to market. What Amazon is doing is a sign of thriving, and I hope that the other big companies are going to follow suit and then we can advance and push the industry.”
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