Uncertainty over the legal status and future of CBD in Italy is affecting the way some manufacturers prepare and label their products, according to a senior executive in the industry.
Andrea Ferrari (pictured), head of sales at medical cannabis firm Synthesis, told CBD-Intel there were issues arising from a lack of clarity between the consumable and pharmaceutical sectors.
“With pharmaceutical grade CBD, in order to boost the amount of CBD in medicines, some pharmaceutical labs are mixing in lower-grade CBD crystals,” he said. “This isn’t really legal – you’re supposed to use pharmaceutical grade CBD when you are making medicine for off-label drugs. Instead, you’re seeing these compounds which aren’t medically approved being used to enrich the prescription.
“This is the responsibility of local health authorities, and is being overlooked. It’s all a matter of resources, both in terms of money and time. The boards have a lot of responsibilities, and this is quite low down on their list of priorities.”
Ferrari also spoke of how CBD fell between two regulatory spaces, meaning it lacked the sort of governmental oversight it could have. “No one knows who is meant to regulate it, so it doesn’t necessarily get regulated,” he said.
New coalition, new minister
Italy’s recent change of government has also had an impact on CBD enforcement, Ferrari said, adding: “Matteo Salvini was big on closing down CBD shops. He’s left office, so now no one is sure what will be enforced, and how.”
Salvini, the former deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, pledged to “go to war” against the cannabis retail industry following a Supreme Court ruling banning all forms of the plant which had “psychotropic effects”. However, he left office after his Northern League party withdrew its support from prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s government.
A new coalition government has now been formed, with Conte at the helm, and Luciana Lamorgese, an independent, formerly prefect of Venice and Milan, in Salvini’s former Interior Ministry role.
It seems that a lot of CBD products for sale in Italian shops are incorrectly labelled.
“We did a test of some products, trying to see what was in them,” Ferrari explained. “We discovered that a lot of the things for sale didn’t contain what was on their labels. Sometimes the ingredients were wrong, sometimes the levels of CBD or THC weren’t as described on the packaging – so that’s an issue.
“People need to know what they’re getting. They don’t want to have something which has been contaminated with pesticides or so on.” The study shows similar results to one carried out by the Spanish Medical Cannabis Observatory earlier this year.
Business event for a booming industry
Ferrari was speaking to CBD-Intel ahead of Cannabis Business Italia, due to take place in Rome on 16th and 17th October, at which he will be leading a session on his current role at Synthesis, developing new prescribing software.
“It’s going to be a very good event, and it’s going to mean a lot for cannabis and hemp in Italy. It’s a booming industry, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It will be good both for people in Italy and people from other countries.”
Ferrari rose to prominence in the world of CBD when he became head of Canadian firm Aurora Cannabis’ Italian offshoot, Aurora Italia, formerly known as Pedanios, a role he held until August this year.
Earlier in 2019 he helped Aurora secure a contract to provide 400 kg of medical cannabis to the Italian Ministry of Defence. He said at the time: “We are now the first private cannabis company in the world able to supply the Italian government directly, a testament to the quality of our operations and the standing of our organisation.”
What This Means: With Italy’s new government having just been formed out of a major political crisis, it is perhaps understandable that the legal status of CBD is not high on the new executive’s list of priorities. Combined with the incorrect labelling of some CBD items on the Italian market, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs, both for consumers and for manufacturers, who need to build trust and positive reputations within a growing market.
– Peter Henn CBD-Intel contributing writer