This article covers the key questions on the legal status of CBD (Cannabidiol) and how this affects its commercialisation and use in the UK. Learn about CBD Oil and the types of CBD products for sale in 2022 under UK laws in our guide. The quick answer: compliant, responsibly made products like KLORIS CBD Oil Drops are completely legal to buy and use in the UK. There's quite a bit more to it though: Despite growing evidence to support the astounding ways in which the cannabis plant (and the CBD derived from it) interacts with and supports the human b
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.
CBD Ban — CBD Oil Is it Legal in the UK?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active component naturally found in cannabis plants. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active psychoactive ingredient in cannabis , CBD does not make you high. CBD oil is manufactured by mixing CBD with a natural carrier oil. During the manufacturing process, the percentage of CBD that is contained in CBD oil and products is required by law.
Is CBD Oil Legalised in the UK?
Many people are now asking, is CBD oil legalised in the UK? The answer is yes; CBD products can still be legally bought in the UK in 2022.
The confusion about the legal status of CBD products is due to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) statement. The FSA set out new regulations for CBD products on 13th February 2020. This meant companies had until 31st March 2021 to submit a novel- food application to be able to continue selling CBD products in the UK.
CBD products from the US and other countries that do not prohibit cannabinoids may be illegal in the UK. Ingredients in CBD products such as delta-8/9 THC can result in customs seizing important CBD products. When purchasing CBD products from outside of the UK, it is important to check the ingredients first to avoid any problems with UK customs.
CBD Oil Effects
CBD oil has various benefits and has gained popularity as an alternative health-food supplement that may help with certain medical conditions. CBD oil works by changing the way the brain perceives pain signals from the body, thus reducing pain — and unlike many prescription drugs, CBD oil does not have strong side effects.
Research into CBD has indicated it helps alleviate chronic pain and a range of other conditions such as epilepsy and digestive disorders . The effects of CBD oil and products have also been studied for the use of CBD in the treatment of anxiety , depression, and other mental health disorders.
People with common complaints such as backache and arthritis may find CBD oil particularly helpful for their symptoms, as it has been indicated that CBD oil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties .
Video: CBD – Miracle Cure or Hype?
NB: The Lighthouse is not responsible for content or opinions that aren’t our own.
CBD Oil With Other Medications
CBD is still legal in the UK, and research has shown that products containing CBD are well tolerated and are not psychoactive. CBD oil is generally considered very safe for most people. However, CBD can interact with prescription medicine , other supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
If you are on any prescription medication or regularly take supplements or OTC medications, such as painkillers, you should discuss the safety of using CBD products with your doctor. THC is the reason some people experience side effects from CBD oil and products. In the rare case that you cannot tolerate THC, alternative cannabinoids, including CBDa, are available, which do not contain THC.
Is CBD Oil Safe When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
The FSA has advised, due to a lack of research not to use CBD oil or products when pregnant or breastfeeding . Although it is unlikely to cause any adverse effects, it is recommended to abstain from CBD oil and products while pregnant or when breastfeeding.
Can You Use CBD Oil When Drinking Alcohol?
Research on the effects of using CBD and drinking alcohol is very limited. Current studies indicate alcohol may amplify the effects of alcohol. How severe the side effects are will depend on various factors. These include how much alcohol is consumed and, the THC percentage in the CBD product.
Side effects of alcohol and CBD may include:
- Feeling ‘drunk’ faster
- Impaired coordination
- Lack of inhibition
- Nausea and vomiting
CBD and Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Studies regarding treatment for alcohol addiction with CBD are promising. CBD may have a use for reducing cravings for alcohol during addiction treatments but to date, all research is based on animal studies.
What Are the Different Types of CBD?
Before purchasing a product containing CBD, it is important to understand the different types of CBD sold in the UK.
The three types of CBD are:
is pure CBD containing no other cannabinoids and comes in either a crystalline solid or a loose powder. contains cannabinoids and extracts, such as terpenes from the cannabis plant. contains several cannabinoids but does not contain THC and is available in the same range of products as full-spectrum CBD.
Products with CBD that are legal to sell, buy and possess in the UK can only contain a maximum of 1mg of THC. This minimal-trace amount of the psychoactive ingredient means that CBD-positive properties can be provided without the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis, weed, and skunk.
Full and broad-spectrum CBD is available in a wide range of products, including:
- CBD capsules containing CBD oil
- CBD topicals, which come in the form of creams, balms, and gels for external application
- CBD vapes. CBD vape oil in e-liquids come in different flavours and is designed to be used in a vape device
- CBD edibles, including CBD gummies, chocolate, and drinks.
The general consensus is that CBD oil and CBD products may help relieve the symptoms of various medical conditions and are not addictive.
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Is CBD legal in the UK? A 2022 update.
Despite growing evidence to support the astounding ways in which the cannabis plant (and the CBD derived from it) interacts with and supports the human body, full legalisation of this particular wonder of nature is not even vaguely on the horizon in the UK. Yet.
There have been movements in recent years which have seen regulations changing – the 2018 introduction of cannabis derived pharmaceutical drug Sativex, containing a 1:1 CBD and THC potency, now means multiple sclerosis patients in the UK have some access to medical marijuana. And in November 2019, The Guardian reported that up to 20,000 patients in the UK were to be given medical cannabis over a two-year period as a study into the potential medicinal use of the drug.
However, while this has been going on, the drug class of cannabis has bounced up and down between being a Class B and Class C drug and the largest hemp (cannabis sativa) farm in the UK, largely used for home-grown CBD products, was ordered to destroy its crop without having their license renewed due to confusion over cultivation and harvesting guidelines.
These guidelines have proved to be confusing and challenging to adhere to – compounded by the growing demand for high quality, regulated CBD products. Hemp, which contains little psychoactive THC is perfectly legal to cultivate in the UK with a Home Office license for the cultivation of Industrial Hemp, however, this is only to be used for preparations containing the mature stalk, fibre, or seeds of the plant.
This presents a problem for the CBD industry, as there is very little CBD found in these parts – CBD is mainly found in the flowers and leaves, which are still treated the same as high THC cannabis and have to be destroyed, making the crop uneconomical.
Selling CBD which has been processed and imported from other countries where cultivation and harvesting is legal is approved. Which is why you’ll find most CBD brands working with farmers in France, Guernsey, Switzerland, Croatia, Portugal, certain states in the US and a few other select places.
And there’s more. But before we dive further into CBD legislation and regulation, let’s take a look at why and how cannabis became illegal in the first place…
A brief history of cannabis law
It’s only in the last century that there has been any kind of prohibition against the use and cultivation of hemp (cannabis sativa) and even high-THC marijuana for that matter. Bizarrely, thanks to the evolution of scientific know-how, this has been during a time when we have begun to understand the relationship between cannabis and the human body and the medicinal potential it holds beyond anecdotal evidence.
The first recorded use of the cannabis plant as a medicine dates back to 2700BC, when it is believed that the ‘Father of Chinese medicine’, emperor Shen Nung prescribed marijuana tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism, malaria and poor memory. But even before that, evidence has been found to suggest the agricultural growth of hemp as far back at the end of the last ice age. Skip ahead, and upon being gifted the plant from explorers coming in from India and China, Henry VIII actually insisted that all farmers grow hemp and threatened hefty fines if they didn’t.
By the early 18 th century, many medical formulations contained cannabis. At this point science had yet to catch up, but thousands of years of successful use was enough for almost all physicians to feel confident in readily prescribing it. Unfortunately, this was also along with morphine – a highly addictive and potentially lethal drug which, by the 19 th century, many people had developed a serious problem with.
As a result, the US introduced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and created the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. By 1914, drug use was defined as a crime for the first time ever although cannabis was still not made illegal in the US for medicinal and industrial purposes. The UK joined them and made recreational cannabis use illegal in 1928. Moving forward to the 1960s, President Richard Nixon waged his ‘war on drugs’ banning all cannabis under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act as a class B substance, claiming that the plant was of no medicinal use. Speculation since has suggested there were ulterior motives at play here, including a chance to criminalise those of African American and Latin American descent. Again, the UK followed suit.
So, where does CBD come in?
At the same time as the media uproar and propaganda against the growth and use of hemp and marijuana, huge breakthrough findings were taking place behind the scenes.
The first partial structure of CBN (cannabinol) was discovered in the 1930s by British chemist Robert S. Cahn , leading to the full identification in 1940. Following that, in 1942 American chemist, Roger Adams, successfully identified and isolated CBD and soon after, THC. However, at this point there was no understanding of which molecules were causing which effects and more importantly, why.
All that changed when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam , hailed as the Godfather of CBD, began to uncover some of the inner workings of CBD and THC, partly through one significant study where 8 epilepsy patients were given 300mg of CBD daily for four months. Half of the subjects stopped having seizures completely after the trial and the others noticed a dramatic improvement.
But the real understanding of how CBD and THC (and since, other cannabinoids and terpenes besides) interacts with the human body first came to light when the first endocannabinoid, Anandamide, was found in the 1990s, quickly followed by the discovery of an unknown molecular signaling system: the endocannabinoid system. A totally transformational moment in cannabis study.
In 1996, California re-legalised medical marijuana and numerous other states did the same over the next 10 years. A number of other countries also relaxed cannabis laws, making way for essential trials and research to learn more about the plant and the impact CBD and over 120 other cannabinoids have on the human body. But laws surrounding CBD and cannabis use in the UK remain very tight.
CBD law in the UK – a 2022 overview
Although regulations surrounding CBD in the UK are pretty firm, there has been a lot of movement in the industry and, undoubtedly, more change is yet to come. However, what that will look like is anyone’s guess.
What we do know is that:
- CBD products sold in the UK are not for medicinal use. They are considered to be a food supplement (when ingested) or a cosmetic (when applied topically).
- Selling CBD products processed outside of the UK is legal in the UK, providing they contain no controlled substances such as THC or CBN and are derived from hemp.
- THC remains illegal. The maximum legal limit in the UK is 1mg per container (regardless of how much product within), which effectively means a non-detectable amount for most products.
- Medicinal cannabis has been legalised for prescription in the UK for special cases.
- CBN is also considered to be a controlled substance and is illegal in the UK.
- The Misuse of Drugs Act (MODa) makes no distinction between hemp, cannabis or marijuana.
- CBD flower is not legal in the UK.
- Cannabis oil is not the same as CBD oil. Cannabis oil is usually referring to an extract which contains THC and is therefore illegal in the UK.
- Brands selling ingestible CBD products in the UK must have submitted a Novel Food Application by March 2021 (more on this below).
- CBD is still an unregulated market in the UK (more on this below).
Novel Food Applications – March 2021
The Food Standards Agency set a deadline fo r all UK CBD companies selling products for consumption to submit a Novel Food Application by the 31st March 2021. This does not apply to topical products like our CBD Balm, which have to comply with stringent cosmetics regulations.
Only consumable products (like KLORIS CBD oil) which are linked to a validated application are allowed to stay on the shelves.
During this transition period no new CBD products for consumption are allowed to come on the market without a fully authorised application (not just validated, but fully completed, a process which can take over a year) – meaning that from 1st April 2021 consumable CBD products which launched in the UK after 13th February 2020 are not able to be legally sold.
Those CBD products available before this date, which are linked to a validated application (like KLORIS) are able to remain for sale while the authorisation process takes place.
But what does a submitting Novel Food Application entail? What does this mean for CBD products?
In short, it should hopefully lead to better quality products through tighter regulations and analysis of products available to buy. This is a good thing, as currently the CBD market is highly unregulated and many CBD products contain no CBD at all, THC levels higher than the legal limit as well as heavy metals and chemicals you do not want to be putting into your body.
When a CBD company submits Novel Food Application, their products must be sent for full analysis, including:
It is an expensive and lengthy process, meaning sadly it will likely result in the closure of many CBD businesses who can’t afford to go through the rigorous testing.
The CBD industry is still maturing
At the moment, there are many CBD products available in the UK which contain little to no CBD at all (despite stating they do), as well as products which contain higher than legal levels of THC and toxic substances.
This isn’t so much about specific regulations but more about enforcement – after all, Trading Standards and Product Safety laws that make such practices illegal for any products have been around for a long time. While this evolves, as always, it’s down to you as the consumer to do your research and know that you’re only buying from the best.
Third-party testing and lab reports that are available for you to read are a must. If they’re not available on the website, ask for them. If a brand says they don’t have them or won’t pass them over for you to look at, walk away!
As the science of cannabinoids and the ECS is still so fresh, there’s still a lot to learn about this wonderful plant. But now, 30 years on from the discovery of these, results from long-awaited, in-depth trials and studies are finally coming to light. The more we find out, the more incredible it all appears to be and we can only hope that legislation will continue to evolve accordingly.
For now, you can rest assured that KLORIS is dedicated to earning our customers’ trust and pushing the CBD sector forward through exemplary standards. We’re all for complete transparency of our product testing and we’ll strive to continue to educate the world on the ever-changing CBD landscape.
Where can I buy legal CBD in the UK?
You should always buy CBD oil from a trusted brand like Kloris – one with good independent reviews and who’s stocked with major retailers like Amazon who have stringent quality checks.
Click here to try our free tool to find the best way to use CBD to suit your needs.