CBD Oil in the UK is legal, but heavily regulated
Guest post by Marina Turea
In the past couple of years, CBD has gained more and more traction with consumers all over the UK. It has found its way into numerous products sold in the UK’s main street shops, including vape oils, confectioneries, sweets, coffees, and even lotions.
Currently, it’s estimated that about 1.3 million people in the United Kingdom are using CBD oil or derivative products, as per the AdWeek.
In the process, CBD has earned both praise and dismissal from advocates and critics respectively.
While the vast majority of people have an idea of what CBD is and its therapeutic benefits, no many are aware of the laws pertaining to CBD production, selling and use in the UK. This begs the question: is CBD legal in the UK?
Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil and its legal status in the UK.
First Up – What’s CBD?
Better known by its technical name Cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabinoid compound found in hemp and other cannabis plants.
It’s closely related to Tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC), both of which are among over 113 active cannabinoids found in plants belonging to the cannabis genus.
Unlike the more familiar THC which has an intoxicating or hallucinogenic effect when consumed, CBD has no psychoactive effect.
CBD is often extracted from what’s called industrial hemp or Cannabis indica in Latin. It can also be obtained from Cannabis sativa.
According to CBD Kyro, Cannabis indica has a higher concentration of CBD and extremely low levels of THC. Cannabis sativa (marijuana plant), on the other hand, has a higher concentration of THC, which is why open cultivation is not permitted without a license in most parts of the world.
As a cannabinoid, CBD acts on Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and cannabinoid receptors, elevating the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and melanin.
It’s for this reason that CBD is thought to help relieve depression, anxiety, inflammation, chronic pain, and a plethora of other conditions.
Is CBD Legal in the United Kingdom?
As noted by Business Matters UK, there’s a lot of confusion and controversy surrounding the legal status of CBD oil in the UK.
CBD oil and other CBD products are legal in the UK only if they have no THC, which is classified as a Class B or controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.
The interesting fact here is that cannabis seeds are actually completely legal to own. You can even buy them in online cannabis seed shops like Zamnesia.
In the eyes of the UK law, “no THC” means that CBD oil should contain less than the permitted 0.2 percent THC.
In comparison, across the pond – in the US, the legal THC content for any CBD product is capped at 0.3 percent.
THC – or Tetrahydrocannabinol as it’s also called – is the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis that causes paranoia, intoxication and hallucinations characteristic of marijuana use. CBD doesn’t have these effects.
For CBD oil to be legal in the UK, it must be obtained from EU-approved industrial hemp. This is a cannabis strain that’s known to contain little or no THC but is abundant in CBD.
If the hemp extract has some THC, it must be removed until it passes the 0.2 percent threshold.
UK Regulations for CBD Oil
The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971)
While THC is listed as a controlled substance under Misuse Act 1971, CBD isn’t a Class B listed drug under the same act.
Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean that you can openly grow your own hemp or cannabis plants. This is illegal under UK law.
On a more positive note, farmers and CBD manufacturers must get express permission from the EU and obtain a license from the UK Home Office to legally grow industrial hemp.
When CBD producers receive a license, they must make sure that their products contain less than 0.2 percent THC. No just that – the remaining trace THC must not be easily separated or distilled from CBD oil.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, the UK’s MHRA has approved Sativex, which contains equal parts of CBD and THC, for use as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
Sativex is available as a spray, with each 10ml unit containing 90 doses.
Similarly, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also approved Epidyolex (which contains more than 0.2% THC) for the treatment of seizures associated with epilepsy.
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
In addition to the Misuse of Drugs Act, MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) has a say in the regulation of CBD oil in the UK.
As of 2016, MHRA requires all CBD products to be licensed if they are advertised for medical use. In other words, you need a license if you want to market your CBD oil for anxiety, pain relief, inflammation relief, etc.
Novel Food Regulation
According to EU law, food supplements, drinks and food containing CBD are regarded as Novel Food.
As such, these CBD products must receive pre-market authorization and adhere to strict rules detailed by the Novel Food Regulation EU 2015/2283.
Otherwise put CBD producers who intend to add CBD to food, supplements and food products must obtain a license from the EU.
This rule applies to CBD infused beverages (beer, coffee, tea, soft drinks, etc.), CBD snacks, CBD gummies, candies, and sweets, among others.
How is CBD Used?
CBD is often extracted as rich oil that’s then blended with carrier oils, herbal infusions, and other additives. It may contain terpenes and an array of cannabinoids.
Given its versatility, CBD can be consumed in numerous ways, and it’s available in many different forms, including oils, creams, vape liquid, capsules, tablets, tinctures, etc. It can also be baked into edibles, gummies, cookies, biscuits, you name them. Not sure where to start? Check out this guide to the best CBD oils on the market today from Giftwits.
Is CBD Oil the Same Thing as Hemp Oil?
The short answer: no, they are not one and the same.
While both oils are extracted from the same hemp plant, hemp oil comes from the seeds, whereas CBD oil is obtained from the stalks, leaves, and flowers of the plant.
Because of this, CBD oil may contain either CBD-rich or pure CBD hemp extract.
On the other hand, hemp oil has a high concentration of cannabis that may include trace or high levels of CBD. To find out more, read this comprehensive explainer article.
The question of whether CBD is legal in the UK is a tricky one because there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the subject.
What’s clear is that CBD oil must contain less than 0.2 percent THC to be deemed legal for sale and use in the UK. Whether this rule is enforced in the UK is a whole different story.
All the same, CBD oil must be extracted from EU-approved industrial hemp.
To sell CBD oil and other CBD products for medical uses, you must be a licensed medical distributor. You must also get your products licensed by MHRA.
For non-medical purposes, you can sell CBD oil as a nutritional supplement. For this, you must obtain a license as per the Novel Food Regulation of the European Union. Your products also have to be clearly labeled as dictated by the Food Supplements (England) Regulations 2003.
The bottom line is CBD oil is readily available and legal in the UK but it must meet the 0.2% threshold.
Marina Turea works as content manager at Digital Authority Partners