By Julia Gabel
Former All Black Ben Franks has launched a new health supplement company—but his products aren't allowed in New Zealand—yet.
Franks has teamed up with former England rugby player James Haskell, and cannabis biotech company CiiTECH, to launch Impact Sports, a range of cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oils and balms.
The products are available to the public in the UK, where Franks says CBD is deemed a 'food supplement'—but Kiwis wanting to use Franks' products will have to wait.
The former All Black told Heather Du Plessis-Allan Drive that New Zealand's regulation of CBD is "over the top".
"I think everyone should have the option or the ability to be able to use these products. Having it over-regulated, or having to go through a doctor to buy a food supplement, is over the top, considering all the other stuff you can get your hands on in a store."
Ahead of New Zealand's cannabis referendum going to be held next year, Franks says legalizing of the currently class B and C drug in New Zealand is the right direction to go in.
"It's not really the CBD most people are looking it, [they are] usually going to the THC, which is the psycho-active part of the cannabis plant. A lot of the benefits come from the CBD part of it. So we'd like to see that become open to everyone in the public, and obviously the THC bit of it could be regulated the way you regulate alcohol and tobacco," Franks told Du Plessis-Allan
CBD is found in cannabis and has little or no psychoactive properties, the Ministry of Health says. It is classed as a prescription medicine under the Medicines Act 1981, and patients need a prescription from an authorised prescriber to use it.
"We're working at the moment to get our products into New Zealand so you can have the option once you have your prescription from the doctor."
Franks says his sleep used to be quite broken as he was often in some kind of pain from rugby. He says the CBD's calming and relaxing effect helped him sleep.
He says he first came across CBD when he heard the military was using it for people with concussions from bomb blasts.
"I really came across it by accident. I had an injury; had a concussion," he says.
"I'd seen a number of guys really struggle to get back from [a concussion] so I sort of just started researching everything I could for alternative ways other people had found useful."
"The follow on from me using it for concussion, I don't know if it was the reason I got over my concussion fast. But what I definitely found was my quality of sleep was pretty noticeable."
So far, Impact Sports and its CBD products have been well received by other athletes, he says.
"When I first started taking it a few years ago and guys found out, I was getting some weird looks. [. . .] And as time's gone on, you see that barrier broken down and really the best thing is not really me staying it, its people having their eyes open to it, and initially it's just them using it, and whenever someone has something good to say it snowballs from there.
"I think that's why CBD has grown in popularity, people debate the research bits and pieces like that, but if you actually try something and noticeably feel the benefits, you're going to sing its praises.
"And that's why I think CBD is really taken off."
The World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances in 2018.