Portugal’s Food Safety Authority Seizes More Than 4m Products Saying CBD Is A ‘Novel Food’ Despite Court Ruling

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Ana Oliveira, Chief Inspector of the National Operations Unit of the Public Information Division of the ASAE (Food and Economic Security Authority), has informed Cannareporter that, in the last 4 years, 208 economic operators were inspected in Portugal, with the initiation of 31 countervailing proceedings and 18 criminal proceedings, with the seizure of 4,325,669 units and 74.6 litres of products, all with a total value of €133,898. 

Since the beginning of 2023, as in previous years, Cannareporter has received several reports of raids, inspections and seizures of hemp products in grow-shops and stores selling hemp products from the north to the south of Portugal and its islands. Confusion still reigns over this sector, not only in Portugal, but also in the rest of Europe.

In Portugal, there are already more than 100 stores that sell CBD and other hemp derivatives with less than 0.3% THC. Legal or not, products containing CBD are available to anyone, in authorised stores across the country, on internet sites or in the illicit market, without any regulation or quality guarantee.

The government neither the government regulates nor effectively prohibits it, leaving it to fall into a limbo that ends up harming all players in the industry, from producers to traders and, finally, consumers.

Although the European Court of Justice has already stated that Member States cannot prohibit the marketing of CBD, it is not yet clear whether cannabidiol (CBD) derived from industrial hemp should be considered a “novel food” or not.

In November 2022, the director of the National Unit to Combat Narcotics Trafficking of the Judiciary Police (PJ), Artur Vaz, confirmed to Cannareporter that it was the Central Court of Criminal Instruction that ordered the return of 40kg of hemp flowers to hemp store Green Swallow’s Patrick Martins, having ruled that they “are not narcotic”.

“Objects, plants and substances that were seized and that, according to the result of the judicial decision, cannot be considered as narcotics were returned. And we complied, naturally, with what was determined by the court”, said Mr Vaz told Cannareporter.

Lawyer João Nabais, who represented Mr Martins in court, also stated that ‘it is necessary that all those intervening in justice bear in mind that hemp is a different plant from cannabis’.

However, and despite this court decision, stores selling hemp products in Portugal continue to be the target of recurring inspections and seizures, with dozens of occurrences being reported to Cannareporter during the first quarter of 2023.

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