The Portman Group, UK alcohol marketing watchdog, issued a Retailer Alert Bulletin, telling supermarkets not to re-order CBD-infused gin “Colorado High” whose label allegedly suggests an association with an illicit drug.
The gin in question is a premium quality beverage containing 200mg of CBD, or cannabidiol, which is a non-psychoactive substance found in cannabis and hemp plant.
The gin’s manufacturer, Silent Pool Distillery, sells it both as a standalone item—for the price of £50.00 for a 50cl bottle—and as part of a ‘CBD-bundle’ (including 5 cans of CBD-infused tonic).
The regulator found issues both with the front label and the back label of the bottle after a complaint was submitted online by a member of the public through their Independent Complaints Panel form:
“I’ve just come across Silent Pools new CBD gin “Colorado High” which is clearly making reference to “getting high” on an alcoholic product! Even the picture on the front looks hallucinogenic..”
Silent Pool Distillery told the regulator that they were using CBD harvested from a special kind of hemp grown in the state of Colorado, and Colorado is a mountainous region situated high above the sea level. Its capital, Denver, is often referred to as Mile High City. Thus, the word ‘high’, according to the manufacturer, wasn’t used in the sense of ‘drug intoxication’. As for the image, it was supposed to imply autumn colors and not any psychedelic distortion of vision.
The regulator admitted that none of the elements on the label was problematic in itself, but, taken together, they created an indirect association with an illicit drug. Even the name of the state—Colorado—in this particular context hinted to the well-known fact that Colorado was the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012.
As a result, the Portman Group upheld the complaint against the beverage as breaching Paragraph 3.2(c) of their Code.
Another issue was the wording on the back label implying that, thanks to CBD, the gin enhanced the wellness and supported the balance. Statements like this are in violation of Paragraph 3.2(j) which says that an alcoholic product should not suggest that it has “therapeutic qualities, can enhance mental or physical capabilities, or change mood or behaviour”.
The Portman Group was founded in 1989 and has over 130 code signatories, including producers and retailers. As such, it can make sure that UK supermarkets and other stores no longer stock the ‘Colorado High’ gin.
Ian McCulloch, director of Silent Pool Distillery, said in a statement sent to just-drinks: “We have sold thousands of bottles and not had a single complaint and now these customers are being treated like children by an outfit that has failed to grasp the reality of the CBD market.”
CBD (cannabidiol) is legal to import to the UK. As for sale restrictions and licensing, they rather apply to specific products (cosmetics, foods, vape liquids, etc.) CBD is added to. This makes the sale of CBD oil legal in the country provided that it contains no THC (which is a psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).
According to Alphagreen Group, who surveyed a representative sample of 5,000 persons in the UK in 2020, only 41% of people understand the difference between recreational cannabis, medical cannabis, and CBD. In contrast, as many as 7.8m (15%) UK adults have bought CBD products in 2019, and the CBD market size was estimated to increase by 50% from £300m in 2019 to £450m in 2020.
Cannabis (from which CBD is derived) is a Class B drug in the UK meaning that its recreational use is prohibited. However, the medical use of the substance is allowed. The law also allows the purchase and possession of cannabis seeds. This has created an opportunity for large international ‘seed banks’, such as FastBuds, to legally operate in the country. The caveat is that, although you can legally buy autoflowering cannabis seeds in the UK, you are not allowed to germinate them. They are sold as souvenirs or collectibles only.
Despite the fact that some countries have made recreational use of cannabis legal and others are considering similar reform, the UK isn’t likely to follow suit any time soon.