Complaint against ‘Colorado High’, the first CBD infused product to be considered by the alcohol sector’s Independent Complaints Panel, is upheld

A recent complaint against Silent Pool Distillery’s Colorado High CBD-infused gin was upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel. This was the first complaint under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks about a CBD product. A copy of the full decision is available here.

A member of the public submitted the complaint on the product to the Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK. The complaint highlighted the potential breach of rule 3.2(c) prohibiting association with illegal drugs and rule 3.2(j) that there should be no association with therapeutic qualities. The Panel found the product to be in breach of both rules.

The Panel noted that cannabis was an illicit drug in the UK but that CBD was not. However, the Panel considered the product’s packaging, which depicted the Colorado mountains in a manner described as ‘hallucinogenic’ by the complainant, the use of the word ‘high’, and the reference to Colorado, one of the first US states to decriminalise recreational cannabis, and concluded that these elements created an indirect association with illicit drugs.

The product descriptor printed on the back label of the bottle included lines such as: ‘A sensory infusion of wellness-enhancing CBD and refreshingly complex gin …’ and ‘Colorado High is a spirit that supports your body’s natural balance and tastes great doing so’. The Panel noted the problematic phrase ‘wellness-enhancing’ as particularly concerning and concluded that the packaging made clear and explicit claims that the product had therapeutic qualities.

The Panel also noted that CBD was widely marketed as providing pain relief and other health benefits and that consumers may assume that an alcoholic drink containing CBD had health benefits. The Panel concluded that the description ‘CBD Gin’ on the front of the bottle and the claims about wellbeing suggested the product had therapeutic qualities. The Panel considered that producers should give consumers information about the inclusion of CBD as an ingredient, if present, but could convey that without referring to CBD in the product name.

Following the Panel’s decision on Colorado High, Silent Pool Distillery has decided not to work with the Portman Group’s Advisory Service on revising the product. As a result, the Portman Group has been forced to issue a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB). The RAB will be sent to over 130 Signatories of the Code which includes major supermarkets and other distributors of the product. It will allow retailers to sell any remaining stock but prevent them from re-ordering the product in its problematic form after 20 April 2021.

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said:

“After careful consideration, the Panel decided that Colorado High was in breach of two of the Code’s rules. We would urge producers to think carefully about how they place a CBD descriptor on their product’s packaging. It is important that CBD is viewed as an ingredient, rather than a suggestion of therapeutic or health benefits.”

Following the decision, the Portman Group is currently developing Guidance to aid producers in their use of CBD in alcohol products.