Is CBD oil legal in the UK?

by for the Ageless Team April 16, 2020

Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK?-for the Ageless

When buying CBD oil, it is essential to know that the product you've chosen is legal in the UK.

CBD oils are legal if they contain less than 1mg of THC, CBDV or CBN per container. However, many CBD suppliers have interpreted the rules in different ways adding to the confusion felt by many consumers.

The legality of CBD is not a straightforward issue. To be sure that you are buying 100% legal CBD oils, let’s look at the essential details that affect each product's legal status.

UK CBD legislation (as of April 2020)

For a product to be 100% legal, suppliers and retailers must comply with strict regulations regarding farming, production and marketing. Unfortunately, there are still many brands who supply illegal products by not adhering to these guidelines or misunderstanding them.

At present, CBD products that comply are legal in the UK. To make the rules clear, the Home Office has produced a factsheet that summarises the current legal status of cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids.

Criteria for CBD to be legal

When viewing CBD products online or in shops 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 all the following criteria:

1. Not sold as medicines

CBD Cannabis March

CBD oils have not been subject to the scrutiny and testing required for a UK medicine. As a result, they must not be sold as medicines or promoted as having medicinal benefits. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) made this clear in a statement released in 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 oil you can buy today is exempt from this only if it is sold as a food supplement with no medical claims. Any mention of specific health benefits could be interpreted as medical claims, so suppliers and retailers must choose their words carefully to remain legal.

2. Less than 1mg of controlled cannabinoids

CBD buds legalityA CBD oil is legal if it contains less than 1mg each of THC, CBDV and CBN. To this day, there are many products available where this rule has been ignored. Instead, companies state that their product "Contains less than 0.2% THC and is 100% legal". However, as outlined in the Home Office factsheet:

“The '0.2%' reference is used solely to identify varieties which may potentially be cultivated. (2019)”

The 0.2% is not a classification of a legal product but a guideline relating to which hemp varieties can be used by licensed commercial enterprises.

3. THC must not easily separate from the oil

Any oil or CBD product must not become a source for others to extract the THC. 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.”

Most full-spectrum extracts contain traces of THC in a form that is impossible to extract without complex, specialised processes and equipment.

4. Marketed as a food supplement

 

Cannabis Trades AssociationIn addition to the requirements above, the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) has provided UK retailers with guidance to ensure that their products are labelled and marketed correctly. They advise that CBD oil should be marked with 'food supplement' to remain legal and that they should be marketed appropriately, without referring to any medical conditions or benefits associated with its use.

Important caveats on the legality of CBD in the UK

In the UK, legal issues are never straight forward. What is true in one country or area may not be in another.

Do England, Wales, NI, Scotland have differing rules on CBD oil?

The legal status, as outlined in the Home Office fact sheet, applies to all countries in the UK. Currently, there is no information available that indicates that CBD oil is treated differently in different areas.

Is CBD flower legal in the UK?

CBD vapingCBD is not legal when sold in the form of CBD-rich hemp flower. In this form, they still contain THC which could be extracted and concentrated. In this way, they don't comply with the MDR 2001 which says that for a CBD product to be legal, THC: "cannot be recovered by readily applicable means or in a yield which constitutes a risk to health."

In addition, the leaves and flower of any plant within the genus Cannabis are still controlled by Section 37(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971:


[...] "cannabis" (except in the expression "cannabis resin") means any plant of the genus cannabis or any part of any such plant (by whatever name designated) except that it does not include cannabis resin or any of the following products after separation from the rest of the plant, namely—
(a) mature stalk of any such plant,
(b) fibre produced from mature stalk of any such plant, and
(c) seed of any such plant;".

Crushed hemp teas are legal when finely shredded if they meet the three criteria outlined previously. They must be carefully produced, packaged and have third-party lab tests to show that there is less than 1mg THC per container.

CBD isolates are viewed as novel foods

CBD isolateProducts containing CBD isolate were first available to buy in 2004. Therefore, when they are contained in food supplements, they are seen as novel foods.

A novel food is one that has had no significant history of consumption prior to May 1997. According to European Novel Food Regulations, novel foods must be subject to official evaluation and authorization by the Food Standards Authority.

In 2018 the CTA planned to organize a deadline for their members to stop producing or selling Isolate products. However, the European Commission’s move to class all CBD food supplements as novel foods meant that any legal process regarding isolates was delayed.

Now both isolate and full-spectrum can be sold until the deadline of 31st of March 2021 (more on this later). Past this point only authorized products can be sold regardless of whether they contain isolate or full-spectrum extract.

Is CBD for pets legal in the UK?

CBD for pets dog
The VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) advised that CBD products cannot be sold as food supplements specifically for animals or pets in the UK. This is because they consider the effect of CBD oil (Cannabidiol) to be medicinal, so marketing CBD oil for a pet in the UK is not legal.

Is CBD e-liquid legal in the UK?

E-liquids fall under the same guidelines as CBD oils. If there is less than 1mg of THC, CBDV and CBN per container, and any THC can’t be easily separated; then it's legal.

Can CBD be prescribed on the NHS?

NHS CBD OilOn 1st November 2018, amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 came into force rescheduling cannabis-based medicines for use in humans. As a result, some cannabis-based products are now available to be prescribed for medicinal use.

Epidyolex is the first of these products to be licensed and is now available from the NHS. It is a cannabis-based cannabidiol medicine with less than 0.1mg of THC per millilitre. Epidyolex is designed to be used by those who suffer from specific forms of epilepsy. As of 6th January 2020, it became an NHS funded medicine available on prescription.

As with Epidyolex, CBD based medications must be licensed or involved in an official medical trial. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provide guidance for all UK medical professionals and advise that CBD should only be used or recommended when involved in a trial or contained in a properly prescribed licensed cannabis medication.

CBD products have been classified as Novel Foods

Hemp FieldEU 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, 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.” Food Standards Agency

Conclusion on the legality of CBD oil in the UK

Is-CBD-Oil-Legal-UKThis is the latest current legislation related to CBD oil and other CBD-based 'food supplements'. We must remember, however, that laws can change very quickly, so it would be prudent of you to keep an eye on the news for any legal updates.

The lowdown is, CBD oil products are legal in the UK as long as you purchase those that contain less than 1mg of THC, CBDV or CBN. CBD for pets is not legal in the UK.

Many legitimate businesses in the UK CBD industry aim to bring CBD products out of the shadows and provide high-quality, 100% legal products. However, as you can see, the path is far from straightforward, and there are still those who seek to profit from the confusion and lack of regulation.

New guidance from the FSA and the deadline for products to apply for Novel Foods Authorisation is a step towards a more regulated industry. After March 31, 2021, you should be able to identify products that have been successfully evaluated and deemed legal for sale from that date onwards.

Now, armed with the information provided here, you can purchase CBD oil with the confidence that each product you choose is legal.

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for the Ageless Team
for the Ageless Team

Author

We're a small team of researchers of groundbreaking food supplements and natural skincare specialised in organic CBD oil products. We follow a strict selection criteria and test everything we retail.


2 Responses

Andy Bird
Andy Bird

May 03, 2020

Great info! It’s important that the CBD industry acts in a responsible way, adhering to the laws and helping consumers to understand the facts behind the headlines. If we are going to take CBD then we want to know that it is safe, where it’s come from, how it’s made, etc. Keep up the great work!

Margaret
Margaret

February 18, 2019

Found lots of answers thank you.

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