Episode 93 – Cannabis and CBD in the U.K.



Joe: On this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast," we're heading back across the globe to the United Kingdom for an update on the cannabis and CBD space there, the latest on innovation, regulation and more. We're going international again. This is the "CPG & CBD University Podcast," and it starts right now.

I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." If this is your first time tuning in, we welcome you to our podcast. We're glad you found us on your podcast platform of choice. If you're a returning listener, welcome back to our podcast. And don't forget, you can catch full video episodes on the Global Widget YouTube channel of each of our episodes.

And we're heading back to the United Kingdom. If you recall back on episode 68, we introduced you to representatives from Global Regulatory Services in the UK as we talked about the novel foods dossier for CBD. In this episode, I am joined by Marc Burbidge, the co-founder, CEO, and innovation director at B3 Labs in the UK. Marc, thank you for joining me.

Marc: Hi, Joe. Thank you very much for having me on.

Joe: Is there a title you don't hold? We covered everything there.

Marc: I'm a man with many strings to my bow, I suppose, yes.

Joe: Perfect. Well, let's lead off with what led you into CBD and cannabis, and what inspired you to create the B3 brand.

Marc: Absolutely. So, it was a journey that started about 12 years ago. With many people, illness affected me. Sadly, I had a recurrent shoulder dislocation. It used to pop out twice a week. I'd need [inaudible 00:01:45], I'd need morphine. It was quite a traumatic phase of my life for about 10 years having to suffer with this. And using specifically morphine as a drug for pain relief, the side effects and the depression and all of that that came with that was absolutely awful.

And at the time, a very close family member of mine who worked in the '80s and '90s over in Holland, creating a lot of the original Dutch genetics that we talked about and a lot of the original guys, he kind of began...we began speaking. He began discussing the different strains and cultivars that were out there that were good for me to use because one of the biggest problems that I found was using the THC for pain relief whilst having just used opioids actually could enhance the anxiety and depression.

So, my study really began in that point. And it wasn't just into cannabis. It was into plant medicine. I was inspired by herbalists in general and the effect of plant medicines and the benefits that they could do. So, obviously, from building the rapport and the relationship with him, I learned about plant genetics. That was my main area that I spent a lot of time studying. I mean I've got a seed collection bigger than most people's kitchens, to be honest. It's a personal passion of mine.

And then began looking at kind of soil microbiology and different cultivars, using different ratios of CBD and THC, and different terpene profiles and things like that. I became fascinated with learning about kind of no-till methods or Korean natural farming, comparing it with using coco in soil and, you know, whether you're using it as a completely intermediate, more kind of creating a hybrid system when you're incorporating different forms of bacteria and fungi into the system as well. So, it was a really fascinating phase for me.

From there, it kind of became natural to start looking at the chemistry aspect and the formulation side of CBD and what was kind of really important to me on that side, to be able to get the ease of use. So, I began looking at the terpenes. I began looking at the different cannabinoids, the different extraction methods, the different ways of bringing in my knowledge of plant medicine as well. A lot of the B3 range is based around the combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant extracts to give specific effects and benefits to different people in different ways.

So, at that point, I was employed as a consultant for a subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company, who basically asked me to design their CBD division. They asked me to work with the analytical guys working on the analytical methods, do the product development. It was a really exciting phase of my life. It lasted around about 12 months. And after that, it just kind of felt like the right thing to start building myself, to start looking at an opportunity to really kind of take the innovation, take the knowledge, and take the projects that I've got, and bring it into the mainstream.

That's where I met my partners. We raised the investment. B3 is going for about two years now. And it's been an incredible, exciting time. Within that, I've also had a phase where I've worked for the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry. So, regulations, something, and obviously, GRS who you've had on previously. I've worked with them in the past. So, regulation has been obviously a massive part of the industry which I'm sure we'll want to talk about later on in the episode at some point.

Joe: Now, what is B3 all about?

Marc: So, in essence, we're different to most businesses. We weren't driven about...it was never about commercial in the sense of it. And it was never about "We're going to be the biggest. We're going to be the best. We're going to make the most money." It was always about creating a foundation built on technical excellence. That is what the entire company is about, whether we talk about our novel food applications, whether we talk about our certification, whether we talk about our in-house knowledge not just on CBD. You know, the CBD industry that's exploded over the past few years, everybody's talking about CBD. But there's not a lot of knowledge about cannabis. There's not a lot of knowledge about where this comes from, the seed, the soil, the cultivars, the way it's cultivated, maximizing the plant's expression. All these things aren't taken into consideration.

And I think, building an organization based on technical excellence, based on being what we can be at this time, and then in the future, building in the sales aspect, building in the marketing aspects, what we're doing as a business. Because ultimately, you see many companies out there, and the foundations aren't set, and it makes it struggle. And they might make lots and lots of money in the short-term, but in the long-term it might fall down. For us, it's about build the foundation in the short-term, and then flourish in the long-term.

Joe: And we talked about regulations, the regulatory landscape in the UK. We've had it on past episodes, and you mentioned it on the intro. Where does the recreational cannabis and even CBD stand now over in the UK?

Marc: I suppose kind of touching on CBD first, then obviously, novel foods is something that I'm sure you've heard about, and other of your listeners may well have heard about as well. Ultimately, it's been quite very challenging times for the industry. Last February, on the 13th of February, the FSA gave a deadline that no new products were allowed to be sold on the market, which effectively stunted innovation to a degree, but from an understandable point of view where they're trying to protect safety.

Ultimately, then people had to submit their novel food applications and have them validated by April. Now, the situation that's happened around that is the validations haven't occurred, the product lists haven't occurred. We're now, I think, five months beyond April. We're still waiting listings. So, for manufacturers such as ours, for brands, for everybody in the UK CBD industry, we're playing a bit of a waiting game. But at the same time, once those doors get opened, the opportunities to the UK space is possibly the first regulated, legitimized CBD wellness industry, you know, across the globe is really, really exciting times.

And on the recreational side, I suppose for the UK right now, there's not a million things that are happening there. I think there's a lot of discussions that are going on around moderating THC limits to allow people to be able to begin using cannabis at a lower level. But I don't think the regulation or recreational legalization is on the agenda itself.

Joe: And being on the forefront of regulation, when it comes to regulations, B3 Labs was the first CBD manufacturer to hold BRCGC certification in the UK. What goes into acquiring that, and what's that all about? And why is it so important?

Marc: Yeah. So, well, first of all, it's BRCGS. So sorry to correct you there, Joe.

Joe: Oh, I missed one. GC. I was looking down on my notes. I made sure I had all the acronyms, you know.

Marc: This is easily done. And I'm going to throw a few more acronyms at you anyway. So, BRCGS. It basically...it's in the name. So, it stands for Brand Reputational Compliance Global Standards. It's effectively a standard that's been set to 20 years. And then it's the first standard ever to be benchmarked by the GFSI. The GFSI is the Global Food Safety Initiative. And ultimately, the purpose of BRC certification is brand reputational protection, compliance, legality. So, some of the key aspects that go into it is a fully robust quality management system that incorporates every aspect of safety of the product.

So, as an example, traceability is one of the key aspects. So, every single ingredient, piece of packaging that we use is traced directly to source. So, even the glass bottles that we use for our tinctures, that glass, we know exactly where that glass comes from. And we have to audit these suppliers, and we have to ensure they have the right certification. And we have to ensure they have all of the correct processes and paperwork in place before they supply us. So, we've got absolute traceability of everything. It's there to give the brands that we work with the opportunity to know that they're safe and they're protected by this. It's a prerequisite for major retails in the UK.

So, I don't know if you know the retails in the UK, but you've Tesco, Sainsbury's, all of these companies. They're looking for BRCGS certification, whether it's for the tomatoes that they buy or the other types of food, or the cereals that they buy. This is the certification standard that they're looking for. It gives people that peace of mind. There's a product recall process in place. There's the traceability of ingredients. If something goes wrong with the product, there's a full process in place to be able to do what's necessary with that.

And, obviously, we're working in the cannabis space. You know, we're working in an area where the public isn't fully bought in. You know, there's question marks. They're seeing the benefits, but they know it's still coming from cannabis. You know, what legitimizes CBD? What legitimizes cannabis? It's getting proper certifications. It's proving the safety of the products. It's showing that you can create innovation whilst also maintaining quality, maintaining safety, and maintaining compliance for the industry. And that's really what BRC is built around.

Joe: Well, we've talked at length on past episodes about compliance in the CBD industry here in the U.S. What have you seen in terms of compliance from other companies and manufacturers in the UK?

Marc: I think we've seen a huge step change in the last few years. I mean you go back kind of three or four years. You know, many of us, many CBD companies, there wasn't the realization that we are food companies. You know, tinctures, CBD tinctures are food. There wasn't the realization of this. So, people didn't realize that they needed [inaudible 00:10:59] plans. They didn't realize that they needed to have all of the necessary quality management system and product withdrawal processes in place. When it came to laboratory testing, using accredited methods like, you know, ISO 17025 accredited methods to make sure the limits of quantification is correct so that we can detect the correct number of controlled cannabinoids and things like that within it.

So, in the early phases, there was a lack of knowledge around these areas. But, you know, what I'm really happy and it really warms my heart to see, and novel foods has been a big part of pushing companies towards this, while also an internal realization that the industry needs to become legitimized. And the best way to bring it forward is by following best practice in food manufacturing in general. So, you know, where it was, it wasn't in an amazing place when it started. But now, people are beginning to look at these certifications. You're seeing more and more companies with ISO 9001 which is another quality manufacture...you know, which is another quality management system. It's not as deep as BRC in terms of the manufacturing and the requirements that supermarkets and major retailers want, but it's an excellent quality management system.

And people looking at going above and beyond in different areas of certification around food to try and build this element of compliance around what they're doing. So, yeah. We're not where we need to be, by all means. But the industry in the UK is certainly getting there.

Joe: And speaking of the industry in the UK, setting up my final question very nicely, where do you see the recreational cannabis space going overseas? And how does that position B3 Labs for future growth?

Marc: Yeah. I think where recreational cannabis is now — and obviously, I touched it before — is there isn't a short-term opportunity in recreational cannabis, from my knowledge base. I don't think it's something that the UK government is paying a special credence to, or has a plan to basically put into force. But what I do see in the years to come, now that...CBD has opened a gateway of acceptance. Whilst there's still people's minds to win over, CBD is opening gates of acceptance that cannabis has beneficial properties to it. And people are learning beyond CBD, the benefits of THC, you know, with various different illnesses and what have you.

So, I think before, I think recreationally, in terms of the legislation catching up and being in a position where cannabis is legalized in the UK from a recreational standpoint, I think that will come based on the public, the public realization that cannabis is not as harmful as it's potentially been portrayed in the past. And it has many, many benefits, whether it be medicinal or wellness or even just lifestyle. We look at the comparisons between alcohol and cannabis as an example. And you know they are polar opposites in the way that they work and the way that they affect the body. People use cannabis to relax.

A good friend of mine, she made a joke once. And she said, "You know, at the end of the day, you might have a couple of spliffs of an evening. And you'll probably eat a packet of biscuits. But if you go down the pub and you had 15 pints, there's a good chance you might end up with a fight with somebody." So, yeah, that kind of comparison is always a good one.

So, ultimately, I do see the recreational industry coming to the UK. The question of when, I don't know. And as far as B3 is set up for, I mean, you know, whether it's the development...you know, we utilize my knowledge of cannabis to develop kind of CBD-based products that are very similar to the THC-based products in terms of their format. So, for instance, like, we make dabable extracts. So, you know, whether it's the isolate or the distillate, you know, we'll infuse them with strain-specific terpene blends, make those dabable products. We've got the distillate cartridges as an example, which is becoming more and more mainstream in the UK.

In the early days, when I used to speak to people, it was, "Smoking?" It's like, "No, no, it's not smoking." "Well, it's the same as vaping." "It's not even the same as vaping. There's no PG, there's no VG, there's none of these flavorings." So, obviously, no. With those kind of product formats, it sets us in a great place for the recreational space in terms of the manufacturing side, should it come along. There's bridges, there's barriers to jump over. You know, at the moment, you need a home office license to even carry THC. So, that's an area that is not something that we're at that point where we could even be having those discussions.

But ultimately, we look forward to the opportunity to that. We look forward to a well regulated industry, should it come, that allows companies such as ours to really be able to set the standards and show whether it be the food sector or whether it be the recreational sector. When that comes along, what the best quality can look like and what the best safety can look like as well.

Joe: Well, Marc, thanks for all the great information. Best to you and the entire team at B3 Labs. And as things evolve in the regulation space overseas, we'd love to have you back here on the podcast.

Marc: Absolutely. I'd love to be on. Thank you very much for having me, Joe.

Joe: Marc Burbidge is the co-founder, CEO, and innovation director at B3 Labs in the UK. And if you're watching the full video version, you can see the window at the bottom with their website. That's www.b3labs.co.uk to learn all about the great work they do in the United Kingdom and beyond.

And thank you for tuning into this episode of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." Reminder to hit that Subscribe button wherever you get your podcast for notifications of new episodes each week. And you can also catch full video episodes on the Global Widget YouTube channel. I'm Joe Agostinelli, host of the "CPG & CBD University Podcast." Thanks for tuning in.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. CBD products are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult with your personal physician about CBD and using CBD products. CBD should never be used by anyone under the age of 18. This podcast is not intended to provide legal advice regarding the legal status of CBD and CBD products.