By restoring the hemp extracts as traditional food, the Czech Republic has a unique chance to reverse the trend in the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. The attitude of the Czech Ministry of Agriculture can help support the local economy and companies not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the EU. All this is in line with the principles of the Green Deal.
The Czech hemp cluster CzecHemp – a partner of the HempClub project – is strongly advocating the defence of traditional foods containing CBD extracts and claims that these products are legal according to current laws. The cluster calls for a professional discussion and stresses that there exist legal steps that can be taken to prove the legality of these products.
EIHA director visits Czechia
For this reason, the Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), Lorenza Romanese, came to Prague for a three-day visit at the beginning of October. In May, EIHA submitted an initiative to the Czech Ministry of Agriculture to consult on the status of foods containing hemp extract produced by traditional extraction methods.
Lorenzo Romanese presents the unanimous opinion of both CzecHemp and EIHA: “Historical records show that hemp oils, flowers, leaves, and extracts naturally rich in CBD/cannabinoids have been an integral part of our European diet and have been proven to be widely consumed. The European Commission confirmed this principle as early as 1997. Hemp extracts containing naturally occurring cannabinoids were allowed to be sold as traditional foods in the EU until 2019, before the change in the Catalogue of Novel Foods. In contrast, an isolate (highly purified substance) or artificially enriched extract is considered a novel food. If the Czech Republic accepts the documented evidence submitted by EIHA, hemp extracts will be able to be sold again as a traditional food.”
CzecHemp also claims that hemp extracts are traditional foods that rightly deserve to have their place on the market. The claim is based on analysis and interpretation of the current legislation. Representatives of the CzechHemp Cluster argue that the classification of CBD extracts as traditional foods should be considered when drafting related regulations.
The responsibility now lies with the Czech Ministry of Agriculture, which has received the basis for an informed decision on the future of traditional hemp extracts containing CBD on the Czech and European markets.
Psycho-modulatory substances and hemp
A lively discussion is also taking place over the draft amendment to the law on narcotic substances in Czechia, which are referred to as so-called psycho-modulatory substances (PML). The amendment addresses general regulation without reference to specific substances, but it may also cover some cannabis products in the future.
For this reason, CzecHemp has prepared in June 2023 a basic classification of hemp products according to their use and purpose, THC limits and with an indication of overlap with other legislation. “In order to ensure that the market for hemp products is governed by clear and predictable rules, we have submitted a specific proposal for the classification of hemp products, where CBD extracts are considered to be traditional foods, not substances with psychoactive effects or substances causing addiction,” says Libor Duba, member of the Czech hemp cluster.
CzecHemp considers a clear categorization of hemp products essential for the successful implementation of the psycho-modulatory substances legislation. Currently, in Europe hemp extracts are encroaching on the legislation of novel foods. CzecHemp and the experts at EIHA think that traditional hemp extracts (i.e., extracts that contain cannabinoids at the levels naturally occurring in the hemp plant) should be assessed as a traditional food, as they were until 2019.
CzecHemp’s priorities have always included a focus on product quality and protecting the interests of the consumer in its safe use. And the number of consumers in the Czech Republic is not negligible: “According to the latest information from the Government Council for Coordination of Policy on Addictions, in 2021 the prevalence of active CBD product consumers in the Czech Republic was 5.2% of the population over 15 years of age, which corresponds to approximately 459.000 users. At least one-lifetime experience with CBD consumption can be estimated at 12.4% of the population over 15 years of age, i.e., more than 1 million people,” said Michael Fanta from the Centre for Economic and Market Analysis (CETA). The Czech Republic has a population of about ten million.
Restricting the availability of CBD products would not only complicate the lives of consumers, but it would also threaten the return on investment of many Czech farmers and producers who have invested dozens of millions of Euros in production, technology, and research. Moreover, in practice, instead of Czech products, which are subject to strict local legislation, several foreign products containing CBD would enter the Czech Republic without any regulation and control. A regulated market leads to the sale of regulated products, which guarantees their traceable quality and safe use.