Are CBD and hemp legal in the UK? Rest assured, CBD is legal to both sell, purchase and use in the UK. In this short article, we discuss where the confusion originates from. This article covers the key questions on the legal status of CBD (Cannabidiol) and how this affects its commercialisation and use in the UK.
Is CBD Legal in the UK in 2022?
Rest assured, CBD is legal to both sell, purchase and use in the UK, and, we’re happy to announce there are no plans for this to change any time soon. However, we can see why you might be confused with so much info out there.
There is still plenty of uncertainty with consumers regarding cannabinoids and CBD oil, primarily surrounding its legality, safety, and efficacy in the UK, which isn’t helped thousands of online articles reporting supposed scientific claims. In fact, they make it particularly annoying to filter through to find the truth.
How do you know the law surrounding CBD?
With years of experience in bringing safe and high-quality CBD to the UK and European markets in oils and pouches, we have a strong familiarity with the law and regulation surrounding its growth and production (for more on how we make CBD – check out our guide here). This article explains where much of the confusion originates and clarifies many of the myths relating to cannabidiol.
Will CBD remain legal in the UK in 2022?
We’re happy to state that CBD remains legal in the UK, and its popularity is still growing. The CBD market worldwide is set to hit £2.6 billion by the end of this year!
Definitions of CBD, Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana
The complexness surrounding CBD’s legality arises from the unclear explanations of the terms. For example, what do we mean when we say CBD rather than hemp? Let’s take a look.
What is Hemp?
Hemp, also called “industrial hemp,” refers to the non-intoxicating varietals of the Cannabis Sativa plant . Hemp is one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops, and it’s been used for centuries for everything from ropemaking and textiles – even housebuilding! A strange fact – it used to be the law for farmers to grow hemp. Henry VIII demanded that for every 60 acres, farmers had to produce about 1/4 acre of flax or hemp!
While the variety contains only trace amounts of THC, it has many other cannabinoids, such as CBN, CBG and of course, CBD.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is the genus’s name (science speak for a “family”) for both the hemp and marijuana plant, but they are divided by their usage, chemical make-up and cultivation. Cannabis has three species: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.
If you’ve heard the term on the news – this is usually referring to the family by its generic term and the illegal development of the psychoactive drug containing the cannabinoid THC, which creates the feeling of euphoria and the well-known ‘high.’
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is the strains of cannabis made from the dried cultivated flowers or leaves of the Cannabis Indica or Cannabis Sativa species. You’ve probably heard the other common names for this, such as weed and pot. Marijuana is illegal when grown or produced in the UK and much of the world (without a licence). Another strange fact: over half of all drug seizures worldwide are cannabis seizures.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the compounds secreted by cannabis flowers (just like all the vitamins or minerals in vegetables). In the 1980s, scientists discovered that these compounds mimic those our bodies naturally produce (called endocannabinoids) , which interact with the newly discovered endocannabinoid system (which is found throughout your body). As a result, these compounds can influence appetite, mood, and even memory.
CBD and THC are currently the two most well-known cannabinoids based on efficacy and potency. Still, much research is being undertaken to explore more on the other hundreds of interactions with the human body. For more detail on endocannabinoids, check out our article here.
What is CBD (cannabidiol)?
CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid in the hemp plant. It’s a naturally occurring compound used in oils and edibles to impart a feeling of relaxation and calm. However, CBD is not psychoactive and is legal for use in the UK. We use it for making a range of CBD oil tinctures and pouches.
What is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)?
THC is the compound in marijuana accountable for the plant’s psychoactive effects, such as increased appetite and euphoria. While much research is currently being undertaken to understand THC’s potential health benefits alongside its potential for addiction, it is a banned substance worldwide.
Are all CBD oil products legal?
As mentioned, the legality of CBD pouches, oils, and other products depend on the safety regulations in place for the product alongside its THC content. For example, CBD oil products remain legal in the UK if they have a THC content below 0.02%, with THC a controlled substance under the UK parliament’s “Misuse of Drugs Act 1971”.
Furthermore, the CBD compound must be taken from an industrial-grade hemp strain that’s been legally approved. This ensures you’re not receiving an unsafe or inferior product.
Is CBD Safe?
People often associate CBD with the negative portrayals of marijuana. The essential thing to remember is that CBD is known to be safe. As it’s made from the hemp strain, it doesn’t produce any intoxicating effects. In addition, studies have shown that CBD has no addictive properties.
However, like grapefruit or bananas, CBD can interact with other health conditions. We recommend speaking with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re any of the following:
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Have underlying medical issues
- Current using any medications
Are there any potential side effects from CBD?
Significant research has focused on CBD’s side effects, and it remains safe for consumption. However, CBD affects us all differently, and there has been anecdotal evidence that suggests it can have some unwanted outcomes if taken in excess. These reports include:
- Changes in mood and appetite
- Feelings of anxiety or other mood changes
- Nausea and dizziness
If you’re new to CBD, we recommend starting small to find the right concentration and dosage for you.
Can you sell CBD?
Whilst almost all the cannabinoids of the cannabis plant are controlled and prohibited substances, CBD is not on this list. However, you need to be either a licensed medical distributor or offer CBD as a nutritional supplement (alternatively known as a “novel food”) to retail CBD oil in the UK. At V&YOU, we’re in this category.
CBD & Novel Foods
The novel foods regulation spans the entire CBD industry. It states that any novel food not consumed by humans before 1997 is considered as “novel”.
The European Food Standards Agency (FSA) categorised CBD as a “novel food” in February 2019. This designation means that safety studies are required for each CBD product sold to the EU to prove its safety and suitability for human consumption.
An essential part of this approval includes detailed safety studies and certificates of analysis, all of which you can read more about in Our Promise .
What are the CBD regulations in the UK?
Today, plenty of CBD products are sold in the UK. However, there are regulations guidelines for sellers to follow. They include:
- CBD and any THC content and concentrations must be labelled.
- All manufacturer details and ingredients must be clearly listed on the packaging.
- No medical or clinical claims can be made about the product.
What is the future of CBD legality in 2022?
The CBD industry opportunities are growing as the compound becomes more recognised and demand increases among the British public to try CBD products. We’ve spoken at length about why people are interested in the product (see our article here on this).
The rapid rise of CBD in the UK will likely involve more focus on regulation, and we’re enthusiastic to see a more regulated market with less fake health claims and a focus on higher-quality products that really work for people.
CBD, is it legal in the UK?
When buying cannabidiol (CBD), it is essential to know that the product you’ve chosen is legal in the UK. There are a number of rules and regulations in place meaning that some products are legal and some are not. Whilst others may be, depending on how they have been produced.
We spoke with Robert Jappie, partner at London law firm Ince who specialises in cannabis regulation in the UK and Europe. We wanted to gain the benefits of his expertise and share it here. Our first question was, is CBD legal? He said:
“It is absolutely legal. Whether it be ingestibles, vapes or cosmetics… there is strict regulatory requirements in place to ensure that only quality products are sold to consumers.”
These requirements include the 3 criteria for exemption, as set out by the MDR (Medical Device Regulations). Some product types also require Novel Food authorisation from the Food Standards Agency.
CBD legality: fast facts
- CBD is legal to buy and sell in the UK. This includes all of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- CBD cannot legally be sold in the form of hemp flowers.
- Oils, gummies, capsules and other edibles require Novel Foods authorisation from the FSA to be legally sold as of 2021.
- CBD cannot be marketed and sold for pets in the UK as it is considered a medicine by the VMD.
- Full-spectrum CBD products are legal if they contain less than 1mg of THC and have Novel Foods authorisation.
- CBD can be prescribed by the NHS in rare cases.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid that has been extracted from the cannabis plant. The main rules and guidelines for CBD are the same as cannabis. Cannabis is illegal to grow, buy, sell and possess, according to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
However, due to its non-intoxicating nature, there are various exemptions so that safe effective food supplements containing CBD can be sold.
Criteria for CBD to be legal
When viewing CBD products online it is easy to get the impression that the legality of each product depends only on it having low levels of THC. The reality is more complicated. To be legal in the UK CBD products must meet the following criteria:
- CBD cannot be sold as a medicine.
- The container must include less than 1mg of THC, THCV or CBN.
- The product must not be packaged in a way that makes it easy to separate the controlled cannabinoids (THC, THCV and CBN).
- CBD capsules, gummies, oils, pastes and other edibles must receive Novel Foods authorisation.
Note: Novel Foods does not apply to CBD vape juices, hemp tea or cosmetic products such as CBD balms and creams.
1. CBD cannot be sold as a medicine
CBD supplements have not been subject to the scrutiny and testing required for a UK medicine. As a result they must not be sold or promoted as having medicinal benefits.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) made this clear in a statement released October 2016:
“Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medical purposes are a medicine. Medicinal products must have a product licence (marketing authorisation) before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK, unless exempt.”
The CBD sold here and in other UK shops is provided as a food supplement only. No medical benefits can be inferred and to do so breaks the law.
2. Less than 1mg of controlled cannabinoids
CBD is legal if it contains less than 1mg of THC, THCV and CBN in the final preparation as per part C of regulation 2:
“[N]o one component part of the product or preparation contains more than one milligram of the controlled drug”
There is a good chance you have seen mentions of products being legal because they contain less than 0.2% THC. This is wrong, 0.2% is not a classification of a legal product but a guideline relating to which hemp varieties can be used by licensed commercial growers.
The Home Office factsheet clearly states:
“The ‘0.2%’ reference is used solely to identify varieties which may potentially be cultivated. (2019)”
3. THC must not easily separate from the oil
A CBD product must not become a source for others to extract the THC (or any other controlled cannabinoids such as THCV and CBN). The Home Office states that in order to be exempt from the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001:
“[T]he controlled drug in any component part [must be] packaged in such a form, or in combination with other active or inert substances in such a manner, that it cannot be recovered by readily applicable means or in a yield which constitutes a risk to health.”
4. Novel Foods authorisation
EU novel food regulations require all foods without a significant history of consumption before May 1997 to be classified as ‘novel foods’. In January 2019, the European Commission declared that they had not received enough of the required evidence and updated the Novel Food Catalogue to include CBD products.
The UK Food Standards Agency was advised that CBD food supplements shouldn’t be sold unless they have been officially evaluated and permitted. As a result, on February 13, 2020, the FSA set a deadline for all CBD food supplements on sale in the UK to be authorised under the Novel Food regulations.
“After 31 March next year (2021), only products which have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market. The authorisation process ensures novel foods meet legal standards, including on [its] safety and content.”
Whilst these new rules are restrictive, it is believed that they will ensure any products available in the UK will be best in class. Robert Jappie was keen to point this out:
“With the introduction of the Novel Food regime, CBD compliance is now a serious business. Novel Food is the global benchmark for food safety, so UK CBD products can now be said to be the safest in the world.”
The FSA took much longer to process these applications than first anticipated. In June 2022, they finally published a revised list of products that can remain on sale either permanently or whilst further information is sought.
There are currently around 11,000 products on this list, anything that is not included here should now be removed from the shelves, except those products that are exempt such as e-liquids, balms and hemp tea.