UK Pharmacists have been told to check the safety of their cannabis oil products, amid concerns that some may contain illegal high-inducing chemicals.
As the market for cannabis derived products has grown rapidly in recent years, fears have been raised that some are being mislabelled and that users may unknowingly be ingesting illegal drugs.
Non-medicinal legal CBD products are available at many high street retailers but are classed as food supplements, rather than medicinal products because they should not contain the illegal psychoactive cannabinoid THC.
Despite current restrictions on marketing, the range of medicinal benefits claimed for CBD includes pain relief, overcoming insomnia and managing anxiety and stress.
Research carried out earlier this year analysed 30 products on sale in the UK in an attempt to verify their contents, and almost two thirds contained less than 90 per cent of the declared CBD ingredient. Some products contained more.
Worryingly, some 45 per cent had measurable levels of THC, making them technically illegal in the UK.
The report, by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and UK-based laboratory PhytoVista, also found a product that sells for £90 that contains no trace of CBD.
CBD is most commonly available as an oil which can be mixed into food and drink. A bottle as small as 10ml claiming to contain 5 per cent CBD costs in the region of £25, but some products come ready-infused, including chocolate, cake and tea.
The National Pharmacy Association has called on the Home Office to update and clarify their guidelines on what can or cannot be sold over the counter and to bring manufacturers into line.
Jasmine Shah, Head of Advice and Support Services at the National Pharmacy Association said: “A growing number of pharmacies are selling CBD products.
“Our advice to pharmacists considering whether to stock CBD products is to ensure they are acting legally and in the best interests of patients.
“In the case of CBD products, pharmacists should take account of current Home Office guidance, although it must be said the current guidance is difficult to interpret.
“We would welcome clear, authoritative guidance that makes it easier for manufacturers, health care professionals, retailers and consumers to make informed choices, keeping everyone on the right side of the law and safe from harm.
“For anyone thinking about buying such products, we’d suggest you first talk with your pharmacist about what is concerning you, and any symptoms you have, rather than ask about a specific product.
“The pharmacist might then be able to help you by supplying a suitable medicinal product, or give you the reassurance that you don’t need to buy any products at all.”
CBD products are governed by the Food Standards Agency, which treats them as ‘novel products’.
They told the BBC that they expect “companies to comply with the novel foods process, which includes submitting safety information about their products.
“The FSA is considering the best way to ensure CBD food-related products currently on the market move towards compliance.”
But in the US, authorities have been clamping down on rogue items.
Amy Abernethy, the Food and Drug Administration’s principal deputy commissioner, said: “We remain concerned that some people wrongly think that the myriad of CBD products on the market, many of which are illegal, have been evaluated by the FDA and determined to be safe, or that trying CBD can’t hurt.
They said that they “cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognised as safe”.