CBD oil will have to be artificially denatured in order to be marketed, according to a decision by the Confederation. It arouses shock and incomprehension among consumers and professionals.
The cannabis sold legally in Switzerland (with a psychotropic substance (THC) level of less than 1%) has many followers among people seeking to relieve their ailments. Consumers, often elderly, ingest it in the form of oil to calm insomnia, inflammation, or chronic pain.
The Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) decided otherwise, considering that it is not a therapeutic product, nor a foodstuff. Last week, it issued a ruling requiring producers of CBD-containing oils to introduce a denaturant in an effort to “discourage abusive oral ingestion.” In other words, the oil must be made unfit for consumption.
At the start of the year, CBD food products were the subject of a large crackdown for exceeding the maximum authorized levels. This time, it is as a chemical product that it is being measured. In a report published in February, which precedes the decision of the Confederation, the Association of cantonal chemists had established that 85% of the products analyzed presented a risk to health, especially oils, considered under the standards applicable to food products. They must now all be made impossible to swallow.
The shock of consumers and producers
For Carlo, who has been using it for 3 years for his shoulder pain, the denaturation of his product is a shock: “I put two drops of it before going to bed, each time the pain starts again. For me, this decision is a scandal. It shocks me, I don’t understand.”
To relieve his pain, sharp and disabling, he just had to go to a store. Today, he doesn’t know how he’s going to get it. “If necessary, I will go and look for him abroad.” Because the alternative offered to him by traditional medicine, an operation or very strong drugs, does not suit him.
On the side of the producers, the pill does not pass either. In Sierre (VS), Benjamin Foro, co-founder of B-Chill, has been selling CBD oil for 5 years. “Some of our customers are worried. They were happy with this product. Now there is still CBD for smoking or CBD in cosmetic form. But with this legal framework, we will no longer be able to sell oils”, laments- he.
Misunderstanding also reigns among some doctors. Barbara Broers, vice-president of the Swiss Society of Cannabis in Medicine, approves of the desire to regulate this “slightly wild” market of CBD-based products. But she disputes the decision. “As a doctor, this worries me. Because we are going to make a product that was not dangerous to health, and in which some people find a benefit.”
Research into the health effects of CBD is still ongoing. But according to Barbara Broers CBD is less dangerous than many other products prescribed by doctors. “In my experience, I’ve seen that it can help some patients decrease their opioid use and have less pain. If people are taking this product, which is relatively expensive, it’s working for them. If it didn’t work, they’d arrest him.”
The professor now fears that these patients, who found a benefit in consuming the oil, would turn to smoking CBD. “We risk encouraging them to smoke. It’s paradoxical,” she insists.
The Swiss Society of Cannabis in Medicine also regrets the lack of consultation before this decision. For their part, CBD producers are considering an appeal to the Administrative Court, possible by the end of April.
Pascal Jeannerat / fme