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CRI Takes on Role as ‘Cannabis Ombudsman’ as Misleading labelling Revealed as a Massive Problem in CBD Market

More than half of CBD products in SA have discrepancies between content and label

The Cannabis Research Institute of South Africa (CRI) has launched a cannabis consumer safety initiative as it has emerged that more than half of cannabidiol (CBD) products available in the SA market are incorrectly or misleadingly labelled. In what is essentially the creation of a “cannabis ombudsman” from the private sector, the CRI, has undertaken to raise all consumer complaints with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) and the relevant law enforcement agencies.


SAHPRA is the legislated filter to prevent unregulated products from seeping into the local market, but with Covid 19 issues on its hands and the political battles it is fighting around cannabis licensing, the CRI will coordinate the processing and submission of complaints to the SAHPRA and other institutions like the ARB when appropriate. 


Cape-based CRI, which offers certification services to clients with CBD products has raised concern about the rapid influx of foreign CBD products into South Africa over the past year.


“We are at a point where more than half of products in the market are not what they are labelled to be”, Senior Researcher at the CRI, Bella Dorrington, told Cannabiz Africa in an exclusive interview on 19 February 2021. “There are a lot of unregulated cannabis products entering the local market that does not comply to the SAHPRA standards and legislation, exposing the consumer to potential risks.  This has enabled a lot of intentionally or unintentionally misleadingly labelled CBD products to find their way onto South African shelves, and the consumer has no way of verifying the accuracy of the labels or the quality of the product”.


Public invited to channel their cannabis consumer complaints through CRI

Dorrington said the CRI was “inviting the public and various supply chain stakeholders to voice complaints against non-complying products, services, activities and/or advertisements” which will then be channeled on to the SAHPRA and ARB.  She said it was crucial that the South African consumers were able to choose “safe, reliable and regulated products” that complied with industry regulations and the SAHPRA standards.


Click here for the Cannabis Consumer Complaint Form


She said the CRI was “taking responsibility to act as the voice to SAHPRA on non-compliant cannabis products, services and activities”. The CRI is already working closely with the SAHPRA in offering the product certification which “tells the consumer the product complies to the SAHPRA specifications.” 


To date, the CRI has endorsed over 50 products including consumer products, cannabis traceability systems, such as Cultrax, cultivation and manufacturing facilities and analytical laboratories. 


Hebert Banhire: Self-regulation is key in the absence of a clear legal framework

Hebert Banhire, a CRI advisory board member, told Cannabiz Africa on 19 February 2021 that it’s imperative that the industry self-regulates in the absence of a coherent legal framework. 


“The regulations concerning CBD products may be in place, but no enforcement is being applied to ensure safe and compliant CBD and cannabis products are supplied to consumers. Afriplex (a SAHPRA accredited laboratory) analysed more than 500 consumer products over the last two years and found a large percentage of such products are not reflecting the label claims or are unsafe due to unacceptable levels of contaminants.” 


In the absence of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) setting standards, the CRI stepped in and formulated guidelines for consumer products which includes compliance with the SAHPRA regulations.  Banhire continues, “We welcome the certification initiative of the CRI. All products carrying the CRI endorsement logo are guaranteed to meet local legislative and international standards. Afriplex also compared the analytical reports from non-accredited laboratories and found huge discrepancies. I would not trust any analysis from a non-accredited laboratory.”


Background: CRI in its own words

Over the last eighteen months, the CRI has been working tirelessly to bring cannabis analytical capabilities up to Department of Health and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) regulations to meet the Section 22C (1)(b) and Section 22D in conjunction with Regulation 23 and 24 of the Medicines and Related Substance Act of 1965 license standards. It allows participants in the cannabis industry to cultivate cannabis and cannabis resins, extract and test various forms of cannabis, manufacture cannabis containing medicine as well as import, export and distribute cannabis containing medicines within the parameters of the SAHPRA and the International Narcotic Controls Board (INCB).

It is imperative that the government regulates and limits the quantities of cultivated and manufactured cannabis products in South Africa to ensure that the INCB quotas are maintained and excess unregulated products and by-products do not filter into the world market. To meet local and international regulatory standards the CRI has taken particular care and pride in selecting our cannabis laboratory which will be instrumental in establishing the quality and evolution of the cultivated cannabis to the final, reliable, reproducible, quality medicinal product.


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