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ASAE inspected 85 cannabis stores and seized more than 1.500 products

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Since the beginning of 2022, the Food and Economic Safety Authority (ASAE) has already inspected 85 cannabis stores in Portugal, having seized around 1.548 products, with an approximate value of 15 thousand euros. The information was confirmed by Ana Oliveira, Chief Inspector of the National Operations Unit of the Public Information Division of ASAE, in an exclusive interview with Cannareporter. Among the products seized are essentially “food supplements, teas, chocolates and oils”. Traders report “random” inspections.

Despite not specifying which stores were inspected and whether or not these products contain CBD (cannabidiol) or other cannabinoids, the Chief Inspector of ASAE stressed, by email, that “as a national administrative authority specialized in the field of Food Safety and Economic Inspection, with criminal investigation powers, ASAE has directed its action to assure consumers that foodstuffs placed on the market do not jeopardize their safety and health and that their interests are defended, in the guarantee of healthy and fair competition between economic operators”.

One of the Cannabis Store Amsterdam franchise stores, in Lisbon. Photo: Laura Ramos

According to Ana Oliveira, in recent years there has been an “increase in demand and availability in the national market of foodstuffs and phytotherapeutic products which contain the plant Cannabis sativa, its seeds, extracts, oils, or just its chemical substances alone, such as cannabidiol (CBD) or other cannabinoids”. Given the specificity of this plant and attentive to the current legal framework, ASAE also states that “it is important to ensure the protection of consumers' interests, including good practices in the trade of foodstuffs, always taking into account adequate protection of their health. ”, continues Ana Oliveira.

The Inspector also clarifies that “in accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EU) No. 2015/2283, concerning Novel Foods and Food Ingredients, the flowers, leaves and extracts of any part of the Cannabis sativa L plant, as well as food to which these parts and/or extracts have been added are novel foods and in order to be placed on the market they will have to go through the authorization procedure, as established in Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283, to which a risk analysis will be carried out by the Authority of European Food Safety (EFSA)”.

Within the scope of the action planned by ASAE, the typology of economic operators inspected in this area have been “those who are specialized in sales, in physical stores and on-line, cannabis products, cannabis stores, franchising, herbalists and “natural products” stores. However, the Inspector adds that “reactively, manufacturers and packers of food supplements have also been inspected where products containing cannabis may be found”.

Traders report 'random' inspections
To Cannareporter, some traders confirmed ASAE visits, saying that in some cases the inspectors did not identify themselves, which raised doubts about the legitimacy of the inspections. In addition, Maria (fictitious name, as she preferred not to be identified), an employee of one of the dozens of cannabis stores that already exist in Lisbon alone, said that the agents' seizures have been "totally random", depending on the individual perception of each agent, of what is or is not legal. “We have been inspected more than once, one time they took only the oils and left the flowers, the other time it was the opposite. Recently, even chocolates that only have hemp seed oil have seized! It is not clear what the criterion is, it seems that the decision to apprehend or not is based on the understanding of each agent and this can vary a lot”, she vents.

João (not his real name), who manages a store in Porto, also confirmed to Cannareporter an inspection in which ASAE inspectors “took the flowers, but left the CBD oils for the vape-pens, because they considered that if it was for smoking, it was ok.” OK".

Cannareporter asked ASAE some additional questions, which Inspector Ana Oliveira responded via email.

How many and which cannabis stores have been effectively inspected by ASAE since the beginning of 2022? And during the year 2021?
During 2021, 157 economic operators were inspected, with a total of 2022 inspected economic operators since the beginning of 85 until now.

What kind of products are being seized?
So far, essentially food supplements, teas, chocolates and oils have been seized.

What quantities (and of what) were seized and on what legal basis?
In 2021, it is worth noting that an inspection action was carried out in 2021 resulting from the execution of two house search warrants in a clandestine unit for the production, storage and sale of food supplements, on suspicion of crimes of corruption of food substances and foodstuffs. falsified abnormal products, in the municipality of Santa Comba Dão, whose investigation was based on the suspicion that food supplements with cannabis may be being produced illegally and that illegal extraction of cannabidiol is being carried out from the plant in its raw state, for the production of food supplements and natural oils destined for the UK market.

As a balance of this action, it should be noted that the entire activity was suspended, due to lack of licensing and non-compliance with hygiene requirements, with 3.930.000 empty capsules, 428.000 full capsules (without labeling), 6.615 kg of undifferentiated chemicals, 42.000 units of jelly dragees and about 60 kg of tablets (without labeling).

In 2022, 1.548 product units were seized with an approximate value of 15.000,00 Euros, essentially due to the verification of the crime of falsified foodstuffs by the addition of an unauthorized substance, as well as the absence of records of information regarding the systems and procedures of the traceability of the foodstuffs. foodstuffs in the production phases; processing and distribution; non-fulfillment of obligations under the CLP regulation (EC) – classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures.

What are the main infringements detected in these stores?
In criminal proceedings, offenses for counterfeit foodstuffs, for the addition of unauthorized and defective products or for corruption of food or medicinal substances and of administrative offences, stand out. As examples, the lack of mere prior communication, non-compliance with rules for distance sales and marketing of food supplements, lack of prior communication to the competent authority for the marketing of food supplements, among others, should be mentioned.

Do ASAE agents have or have they had any specific training in cannabis and/or hemp?
All ASAE inspection actions, including those carried out on this topic, are carried out by its inspectors based on technical and operational procedures defined in the ASAE inspection procedures manual – ProfASAE Manual, as well as specific training and work instructions (briefings operational), according to the subject in question.

Finally, it should be noted that with regard to the issue of the use of cannabis in foodstuffs, ASAE has released various information so that economic operators can adapt to legal requirements, as well as allowing consumers to clarify. As an example, refer to the article “Use of Hemp (Cannabis sativa) and/or CBD (Cannabidiol) in Food”, available at ASAENews November 2021 (https://www.asae.gov.pt/newsletter2/asaenews-n-124-novembro-2021/uso.aspx).

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1 year ago

Sad to read that you have those kind of problems in Portugal too!
Here in Germany we have raids agaianst normal Hemp/CBD shops on a weekly base
always taking away the majority of products to check the THC content.
For the shops it means a massive loose as it takes often between 6 to 18 month until
they get those goods returned. Up to now german police is still massive agains
regulate CBD products, no matter if flowers or oil…

Well , it is worth mentioning they take everything ? Or almost everything! Being the customer's will! (inspection?…???☘??

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