Leading the way on CBD – Portman Group issues first category guidance on CBD

The Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK, has released new guidance on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcohol products containing CBD.

Infusing alcohol products with CBD, and the rise in popularity of CBD more broadly, is a relatively new trend. While the uses and benefits of CBD are debated, the Portman Group’s Advisory Service has issued guidance in relation to the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks. The guidance is designed to aid producers in complying with the Code, should they choose to produce a CBD-infused product.

The law on the use of CBD in food and drink products is complex and the Portman Group does not imply that the inclusion of CBD in alcoholic drinks is legally permitted.  We urge producers to seek legal advice before placing products containing CBD on the market.

The guidance is intended to highlight elements producers should be aware of when marketing products in this category. It specifically pertains to Rules 3.2 (c) and (j) – association with illicit drugs and suggestion of therapeutic qualities, respectively.

The guidance stipulates that producers should avoid wording and imagery which alludes to any association with Cannabis or other illicit drugs. It also underscores the need to avoid

health and wellness claims. Factual references to CBD are acceptable, particularly when it comes to listing it as an ingredient, however CBD should not be used as a prominent product descriptor. The full guidance can be accessed here.

Speaking about the guidance, Portman Group CEO, Matt Lambert commented: “CBD is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient, and its use in alcohol products is no exception to this trend. We have responded quickly to this change in the market by issuing category guidance.

“This guidance will be crucial in helping producers understand how they may use CBD innovatively and creatively while still complying with the Code.”

Our Advisory Service offers a free, confidential, and impartial service where producers can seek advice on how the Codes of Practice apply to their products and promotions and discuss possible improvements if necessary.

The Code is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year; the publication of this guidance demonstrates the flexibility of the Code and the ease with which it is adapted to fit the ever-changing market. This year, the first complaint against a CBD product was taken to the Independent Complaints Panel. The complaint, against Colorado High, a CBD-infused gin, was upheld. The Panel noted that the overall impression of the product contravened rules by suggesting therapeutic benefits and creating an association with illicit drugs. A Retailer Alert Bulletin was issued, instructing retailers to cease stocking this product. In response to the complaint, and CBD’s growing popularity, the Advisory Service swiftly issued this guidance.