Colorado High CBD gin falls foul of watchdog

20 January, 2021

The Portman Group has warned the trade not to stock a CBD infused gin from Silent Pool called Colorado High.

A member of the British public complained about the gin to the drinks industry watchdog, arguing that it associated alcohol with illegal drugs and therapeutic qualities.

The Portman Group’s complaints panel examined the product and ultimately sided with the complainant. It ruled that Colorado High had breached rule 3.2(c) and rule 3.2(j) of its code of conduct, and urged Silent Pool to revise the product.

However, Silent Pool refused to work with the Portman Group’s advisory panel, so it has now issued a retailer alert bulletin warning retailers not to stock Colorado High.

CBD is legal in the UK, but cannabis remains illegal for recreational purposes. The Portman Group’s independent complaints panel noted that using the term CBD would not necessarily be problematic in itself, but it concluded that this particular gin still “created an indirect association with illicit drugs”. 

The packaging uses words like “hallucinogenic” and “high”, while Colorado was one of the first two US states to legalise recreational cannabis use.

It also promotes therapeutic benefits by using terminology like “wellness-enhancing CBD”, which the panel found “particularly concerning”.

Panel chair Nicola Williams said: “After careful consideration, the Panel decided that Colorado High was in breach of two of the Code’s rules. We would urge producers to think carefully about how they place a CBD descriptor on their product’s packaging. It is important that CBD is viewed as an ingredient, rather than a suggestion of therapeutic or health benefits.”

The Portman Group is currently developing guidance to aid producers in their use of CBD in alcohol products.

Thirteen of the largest drinks producers fund the Portman Group – Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari Group; Carlsberg UK; Diageo GB; Heineken UK; Mast-Jäegermeister UK; Pernod Ricard UK, SHS Drinks and Thatchers – and some smaller producers have argued an industry-funded group has no business telling them what to do.

Brewdog and Tiny Rebel are among the producers to lambast Portman Group rulings in recent years.

However, major retailers like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, WM Morrison, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Majestic, plus pub groups such as Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers, have signed up to the Portman Group Code, so they delist any products featured in retailer alert bulletins.

There is also a fear that if industry-funded bodies like The Portman Group are discredited, the government will regulate the marketing of alcoholic drinks instead, and it could impose more draconian rules.

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