CBD and Cannabis News and Trends for 2023
The world of CBD and cannabis is constantly changing and maturing in a virtuous circle: the more we learn about CBD, the more research and attention is directed towards it. Ongoing trials are trying to find out whether and how CBD can help with inflammation, pain relief, and mental disorders.
The European and global CBD markets are forecast to grow immensely in the next years. For example, the cannabidiol market in Europe is expected to reach €2.6 billion by 2026 and there is increasing research and product development in this category.
As we are reaching the second half of 2023, what has happened so far, and what awaits us? Here are three big developments that caught our eye this year.
Current clinical trials on CBD
We have a lot of anecdotal evidence and are now getting our first trials regarding CBD’s potential as an anti-inflammatory, pain management, and mood-management treatment for humans.
Currently, clinical trials are focusing on CBD for psychosis treatment, which is led by Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry. Linked to this research is another one led by King’s College in London about CBD’s potential for Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s is often accompanied by hallucinations but current medication comes with severe side effects. It would be amazing for millions of sufferers to find something that helps with mental disorders associated with Parkinson’s but without the unpleasant side effects.
Besides the above, there are plenty of ongoing trials about CBD, including ones for the treatment of endometriosis pain, arthritis, general pain, and anxiety.
Still low medical cannabis prescriptions in the UK
Despite the many promising breakthroughs, the adoption of cannabis by the medical establishment remains low. Even though medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, there are very few prescriptions, even today. There seems to be some unwillingness among GP and doctors in the UK to prescribe medical cannabis. , with a mere 89,000 prescriptions for medical cannabis from private and NHS doctors between 2018 and July 2022.
As a reminder, the above data concerns medical cannabis rather than CBD products. Medical cannabis contains THC, unlike CBD products that only have traces of this intoxicating compound that is responsible for cannabis’ sense of “high.”
Medical cannabis is produced from marijuana and is heavily regulated. Recreational consumption in the UK is still illegal and classified as a Class B drug. Conversely, CBD is produced from industrial hemp and is legally sold in the UK as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC.
Even so, medical practitioner attitudes matter because they often carry on to CBD products as well. So, why do they avoid prescribing cannabis?
Why are British doctors not prescribing medical cannabis?
According to research, medical practitioners have several concerns regarding prescribing cannabis. It seems that these are preventing them from prescribing medical cannabis even when this would be helpful.
One main reason behind doctors’ reluctance to prescribe medical cannabis is that they don’t know cannabis’ medical potential and have only had limited experience in determining whether and how much cannabis to prescribe. This points to a lack of proper communication about the potential for medical cannabis.
Several practitioners also mentioned that they were unsure of the future effects of prescribing medical cannabis. What if people got addicted or were simply looking for a “high” rather than treatment for an actual condition, thereby derailing the medical process?
Finally, practitioners are worried about their reputation if they start prescribing cannabis, while some are also concerned about the high price of some cannabis products.
Medical conditions most likely to be prescribed medical cannabis
As for the conditions they might prescribe medical cannabis, epilepsy came first. This makes sense because the only NHS-approved medicine is Epidyolex, which helps with two specific types of epilepsy in children.
The other conditions that medical practitioners mentioned were helped with the side effects of chemotherapy, MS, ALS, and Crohn’s disease. Practitioners also considered prescribing medical cannabis for mental disorders, HIV, and glaucoma.
A California pathogen destroys cannabis. Is there a silver lining?
The second bit of news is a surprising development in cannabis cultivation.
An infectious pathogen is currently destroying cannabis crops in California by eradicating the THC content of plants.
The pathogen seems to reduce the plants’ growth and minimize THC production. Over 90% of cannabis growers in California have already been affected. The pathogen has been present in cannabis farms for the last decade but its spread has increased and is now affecting an increasing number of cannabis farmers in the US.
Although this could be devastating for cannabis growers in California, it may also present an opportunity for CBD producers.
Could there be a pathogen that eats away at THC but leaves behind all the other cannabinoids? This would be very promising for CBD production from marijuana. It could require less processing after harvest as most of the work would be handled by the pathogen.
Perhaps scientists can think of ways to introduce selected pathogens that could reduce specific cannabinoids in a plant, leaving behind the desired cannabinoid, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The FSA Novel Foods List grows
Since 2020, CBD producers in the UK have had to register their products through the FSA so they could be included in the Novel Foods List. Existing CBD manufacturers were automatically entered into the List and had to provide tests and toxicology results for their products—but their products remained on the shelves. Newcomers had to register their CBD products in the Novel Foods List and await validation for them before they could sell.
The Novel Foods List has finally started making significant progress and many CBD producers have been validated or are awaiting validation. When a product is awaiting validation it means that toxicology results are still pending to verify their safety.
Although the Novel Foods List has been slow to take off, it was a necessary response to an actual problem and adds a layer of protection to the CBD market. With the growth of the CBD market, many CBD producers created products that were mislabelled or were not tested properly. In some cases, the THC levels crossed the 0.2% threshold while in others the CBD content did not correspond to the label. In one notable case, a high-street CBD product was found to contain no CBD at all!
As more CBD products gain validation, consumers gain a level of certainty about the CBD oil, gummies, or pills they consume. If the CBD manufacturer has obtained validation, it means their products are safe and controlled. In a market that was wildly unregulated at first, this is a step in the right direction, albeit at a slow speed.
The UK CBD market
Our last piece of news concerns the state of the UK’s CBD market. Like anywhere else, the CBD market is expanding in the UK as people become more aware of its potential.
A £1 bn market in 2025
British Cannabis estimates that for Britain alone, the CBD market will pass the £1 bn mark in 2025. New products are constantly showing up on shelves and people are more willing to try CBD as an alternative way to help with pain, anxiety, and sleep.
CBD is seen as the natural choice
CBD is perceived as a more natural and wholesome product compared to prescribed medicines. Many Britons opt for organic CBD to maximize its natural potential.
How many Britons take CBD regularly?
Around 10% of Britons take CBD regularly. This percentage will likely increase as more people trust CBD manufacturers and their practices. In this concern, the Novel Foods List should help. The quality and safety standards that should be met provide certainty to consumers.
What CBD product category is most popular?
CBD vapes and edibles are the most popular market category in the UK. Vapes deliver CBD benefits almost instantaneously because they bypass the digestive tract. CBD reaches the bloodstream quickly and without losing much of its potency.
CBD edibles are easy and discreet to consume and they can be taken any time of the day. They come in many flavours and shapes which makes it easy for consumers to find the CBD product they want.
CBD news overview
As we enter the second half of 2023, there is still a lot that we don’t know. For many, this makes the world of CBD even more exciting and appealing. Our three main takeaways are:
- Both medical practitioners and politicians have been slow to adapt to an ever-changing reality and are often led by the public—which is usually one step ahead.
- A potential black swan event regarding cannabis cultivation may strangely be good news for CBD producers.
- The CBD market looks sure to grow, both in the UK and worldwide.