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#CBD 101

CBD Legal Position | Is Cannabidiol Legal In The UK?

21/04/2020 7 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal
21/04/2020 7 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal

Everyone’s talking about CBD. Whether in Germany, throughout Europe or overseas, the hype around CBD is still going, and it's going strong. With 6 million people having used CBD in some form in the UK, it's easy to see this trend is still growing. The reason for all the buzz around CBD is because CBD and all of the other cannabinoids come from cannabis. It may sometimes also be referred to as hemp, but hemp is still cannabis. Hemp only ever contains a nominal amount of psychotropic cannabinoids that is under the very, very low legal limit. As CBD originates from the natural cannabis plant, the first question that automatically pops into many people's heads is: Is CBD legal in the UK? We think the answer’s pretty simple: CBD oil is legal, if certain conditions are met!

What Is CBD?

CBD (abbreviation for Cannabidiol) is a non-psychotropic compound found in the cannabis plant. When CBD is consumed, it won't make you "stoned" or "high" like the psychotropic cannabinoid known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the medicinal cannabis plants which contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, but it’s not exactly the same plant. This variety of cannabis plant is known as Industrial hemp.

Legalized industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant but this particular variety of the plant contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Any variety of cannabis with a THC level higher than 0.3 percent is considered medical cannabis, not industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is typically used for fiber, seed, and CBD oil. Fun Fact: Industrial hemp is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber around 50,000 years ago!

Industrial hemp plants are used to make our CBD products. These plants contain higher levels of CBD and significantly lower levels of THC. CBD is legal because CBD exhibits no psychotropic effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the hemp plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil such as coconut, MCT, or hemp seed oil. The creation of any CBD product all starts at the hemp farm. When considering the legality of CBD, it's important to understand how the hemp is grown, processed, extracted, and finally packaged into CBD oil products.

Is CBD Considered A Narcotic Drug?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and, like THC, occurs naturally in cannabis. The natural origin of both CBD and THC in the cannabis plant often leads to misconceptions. Some people just assume that because CBD comes from cannabis, it must be a narcotic. Yet the matter is actually pretty clear-cut: The cannabis plant (containing high levels of THC) is listed as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but CBD is not listed as a controlled substance under this act. The reason for this is because THC has a psychotropic effect and is therefore considered as a narcotic drug. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychotropic and thus the authorities don't consider it an intoxicating narcotic drug by UK law.

See also our article on CBD vs. THC.

Products containing CBD are legal in the UK, as long as the amount of THC in the product is taken into account. Hemp products derived from Industrial hemp such as CBD oil, hemp oil, hemp seeds and even the cultivation of hemp must have a THC level of 0.2% or less when growing according to UK law. Even food supplements containing hemp also have to abide by the same rules.

And the 0.2 percent limit, what’s that all about? As mentioned above, care must be taken to ensure that the cannabis plants (industrial hemp) used for production contain less than 0.2% THC. This is because THC is included under the narcotics law and is therefore illegal in the United Kingdom unless prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy on prescription. So, over the counter products with a THC content higher than 0.2% are illegal under UK law. Please note: Just because it's legal in the UK does not mean it is legal everywhere. The upper limit of the THC content of CBD products is not consistently regulated throughout all of the European countries. In Switzerland, for instance, the limit is 1.0 % of THC content. Before you pack your bags and go on a trip, check what limits apply in the country you’re heading to.

What Is Novel Food All About?

So, what's the deal when it comes to food supplements? Food supplements are a manufactured products intended to supplement the diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. So, is CBD oil legal in the UK as a food supplement?

The EU added CBD to the novel foods register back in January 2019. According to the so-called Novel Food regulation, “new” food may generally only be sold if it has been approved via a usually lengthy (and costly) licensing procedure. In this case, “new” means that a foodstuff had not been used for human consumption to a significant extent in the EU prior to the 15th of May, 1997. But what precisely does consumption “to a significant extent” in the EU mean? In any case, the long history of the use of the medicinal plant cannabis, and even its use by monks for medicinal purposes, seems undisputed. Well, sure cannabis has been used for thousands of years. But this is exactly the question that remains under dispute. Sometimes personal convictions seem to take precedence over objective discussion.

What Makes CBD Oils Different?

Cannabis is not just made up on CBD and THC. It contains more than 100 different cannabinoids, chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These cannabinoids have different impacts on the body and are concentrated to different extents in various parts of the plant. THC and CBD are simply the most well-known and studied compounds. Pure, isolated CBD is legal in all UK retail products. Other cannabinoids which are not legal in the UK: pure THCA (tetrahydrocannbinolic acid), both THC and CBN (cannabinol; into which THC changes). The status of other cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) or cannbichromene (CBC) is less clear, despite their growing popularity.

In the UK, it is possible to get CBD oils and products containing CBD because it won’t get users “high”. By contrast, THC is a psychotropic compound and is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Is CBD Flower Legal in the UK?

So, now that we know CBD oil and CBD products are legal, what about CBD flower?

There is one main exception to CBD being legal and that's when sold as a CBD-rich hemp flower. If it's sold in this form, it is not legal. Although there are varities of CBD flower available that won't make you high, when it's sold in the form of flower, it may still contain levels of THC that are above the legal limit. Because the THC can be extracted from the flower and consumed, it is not allowed to to be sold in this form. The leaves and flower of any plant within the genus Cannabis are controlled substances according to Section 37(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Is It Legal To Grow Hemp In The UK?

The UK has a long history of using hemp as an industrial plant to produce rope, nets, paper, fabric and sails. It was so widely used, that in 1533 Henry VIII made it law to be grown on all farms for every 60 acres of crops. Today, the situation with growing hemp is very different from those days. Since cannabis sativa (hemp) is associated with illegal strains of cannabis, it is often treated as a controlled substance. Despite otherwise being a legal product, the growing hemp in the UK is subject to strict regulations. These regulations are what prevents it from becoming a lucrative crop for all farmers.

Today, hemp is used for many of the same purposes it was used in the past, but now it is also used to produce CBD oil. Hemp can be legally grown in the UK. However, the rules and regulations that keep it in a restricted status means that it can only be grown to harvest the seeds and stalks. Any flowers must be immediately destroyed and disposed of. These rules stop hemp farmers from selling the hemp to produce CBD oil or other CBD products.

Can The Police Stop Me For Possessing CBD Oil Products?

The police have an obligation to investigate breaches of the misuse of drugs act. In this context, what’s important is the THC content of a CBD product. With our products, you don’t need to panic. The CBD oil we use as a processed product is well below the 0.2% limit, so we consider it safe and legally compliant.

When asked is CBD legal in the UK, you can confidently answer yes, given that it meets the requirements discussed above. Nowadays, it's possible to purchase a wide variety of CBD products in the UK with no issues.The reason for this is because of the fact that CBD will not get you high and is safe to use.

What Does This Mean For The Consumption Of CBD Oils, Bath Oil etc.?

Regarding most CBD products, the whole Novel Food debate is nothing more than incidental. That’s because the majority of our products are cosmetic products and not food. Cosmetic products containing CBD are completely legal. In other words, the Novel Food regulation doesn’t even apply here.

Final Analysis

Regarding CBD products, it's safe to say that what you see on the market is legal. Due to the lack of regulations and standards on CBD extracts, in some cases quality may not be guaranteed but if stores are carrying the products on the shelves, chances are it's not an illegal substance. When it comes to CBD food supplements, the rules are more strict, but when it comes to cosmetics and topicals the rules are more relaxed. CBD is not psychotropic, therefore it does not cause a user to feel high, this is the reason it's legal on just about every continent. CBD flower is illegal in the UK and growing industrial hemp is technically legal, but there are a lot of restrictions. No, you're not allowed to extract your own CBD oil at home. If the police search you and find that you have CBD oil, you won't get arrested. The important factor is to understand how much THC content is in any given CBD product. Most of the CBD oils in Europe have less than 0.2% THC.

As of mid-2020, UK law has added some very much-needed clarity around the CBD oil retail products in the UK being legal. Essentially, a product is legal as long as the product is made using a reputable source, verified under the EU novel foods system (for CBD containing foods, drinks and oils), or registered on the EU cosmetics portal (for cosmetics and topicals). If you're currently taking CBD oil, no need to worry, you're not breaking the law. Our products fall under all these regulations and are perfectly legal in the UK.

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