Is CBD oil legal in the UK?

The number of people that are using CBD has rapidly been increasing over the years. Companies are constantly under pressure to produce innovative over-the-counter solutions for the public. So far, they have not been disappointed. 

CBD oil comes in many forms, and while the law is clear about cannabis in most places, it is a bit hazy where CBD is involved.

In our latest post, we will clarify is CBD oil legal in the UK.

Is CBD oil legal in the UK? 

CBD is one of the many cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. Manufacturers infuse the cannabinoid with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil to make CBD oil. Quality CBD oil is considered safe, and it will not get you high. The cannabinoid responsible for getting one high is THC. CBD extract is sourced from industrial hemp which only contains the allowable amounts of THC.

The more you understand CBD, you'll realise it comes in three different forms, namely:

Full-spectrum contains the full profile of the hemp plant, including THC and other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. Broad-spectrum is full-spectrum minus the THC, while isolate is pure CBD and nothing else.

Any CBD product needs to meet the following criteria in addition to less than 0.3% THC to qualify as legal here in the UK.

  • It should not be marketed as medicine.
  • Any packaging container must contain 1mg or less of THC, THCV, or CBN.
  • It should not make it easy to separate THC, THCV, or CBN from the product.
  • All edibles must have novel food authorisation.

A green background with the Supreme CBD to the right and a bottle of CBD oil in the centre.

Do not market CBD oil as a medicine

Before any substance can be sold as a medicine, it has to undergo extensive research and testing. CBD oil has not gone through such, and as a result, you can not market it as medicine. CBD oil is sold as a supplement.

Is CBD oil legal in the UK? Contains less than 1mg of controlled substances

Contents of 0.3% THC guidelines are more for growers than finished products, and they help choose the best plant varieties to cultivate. CBD oil in any packaging should not exceed 1mg of controlled substances such as THC, THCV, and CBN.

The controlled substances should not be easily separable

The reasoning behind this is to ensure legal CBD does not become a source of controlled substances such as THC and CBN. Whether in combination with other active components or not, you should ensure the controlled substances cannot be readily extracted using available means or are in amounts that are a risk to your health. 

Novel Food Authorisation

The law requires that you acquire certification if you deal with novel foods, and CBD oil was classified as such. The process is involving, lengthy, and very expensive. But if you want to operate within the legal limits and your products to remain on the shelves, you should have made the application by March 31st, 2021, for consideration.

Novel foods

Going by the FSA guidelines, a novel food is: 

  • Any traditional food from other countries, such as chia seeds or quinoa.
  • Phytosterols
  • Any food processed by state-of-the-art modern means.

The third guideline is the reason CBD oil finds its way to the list of novel foods. When a food lands on this list, you cannot sell it without first getting approval. CBD was placed on the novel food several months ago. 

The hemp plant has been around for a long time, and as such, it is not the plant that is novel but rather the current extraction methods. The supercritical CO2 extraction method is the reason CBD is on this list. 

CBD edibles include any form of CBD that passes the mouth, such as:

The certification is a consumer protection mechanism.

A green background with CBD oil, capsules and gummy cherries to indicate what Novel Foods means for CBD.

How will Novel Food certification affect the CBD industry?

Making an application and subsequent approval is lengthy and expensive, which may negatively impact small businesses. But this is good news to the users because it only means that whatever they encounter on shelves or online stores is vetted according to the required standards. If they can’t, then a premarket approval safety assessment will do.

All products, whether new or already on the shelf must be certified.

Who should send in applications to the FSA

All who are involved in bringing CBD oil to the market is affected. From the farmer, supplier, manufacturer, and retailers, they should send their application. 

Once you make the application, it takes approximately 18 months before it is reviewed and cleared. The application can be validated or declined, depending on the results of the risk assessment that is carried out.

If you are not validated or your application is incomplete, you cannot sell your products in the meantime. You will have to wait unless there is litigation and an order to sell has been given.

What questions are answered in the risk assessment

The significant factor here is consumer safety. They will check how the hemp is grown, extracted,  and manufactured. You are expected to show evidence of the safety of the process and ingredients.

In addition, they will also check the toxicology report. It shows all the active components in the finished product and how each affects the consumer.

The whole process may be uncomfortable for manufacturers and retailers, but it is geared towards ensuring safety for the consumer. This safety is in terms of quality products and safe processes being followed.

Previously, there was no certification required to engage in any CBD oil supply chain stage, but as of 2021, things have taken a positive turn for the end-user. The extra checks mean they are much more protected. 

Legal challenges in CBD oil in the UK

Inaccurate product labels

Reports show some traders are misleading consumers through labels. Testing random samples revealed that some CBD oil contained lower amounts of CBD than indicated others went as far as having controlled substances in illegal quantities. 

Every retailer should have a certificate of analysis for each batch of products. Go for those that are the third party tested as they tend to be more genuine. If they can’t produce proof of third-party tests, don't deal with them.

Confusion in regulations regarding CBD oil

As things stand currently, the law is hazy though things are beginning to look up this year. Laws governing Cannabis are clear and straightforward, unlike CBD. Due to the haziness, a lot of unscrupulous traders have been taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers. 

Some of the ills bedevilling the CBD industry are mislabelling and dangerous ingredients found in the products randomly tested. Without a proper chain of command, it becomes confusing to dish out the consequences of not following the rules.

Is CBD legal in the rest of the world?

Is CBD oil legal in Europe?

EU guidelines allow CBD that is extracted from industrial hemp and contains no more than 0.2% THC. But some countries like Slovakia and Lithuania classify CBD as illegal. Before travelling with CBD within Europe, check if the county you are headed to allows CBD. 

A green background with the Supreme CBD logo and the European flag in the centre showcasing is CBD oil legal in Europe?

Is CBD legal in North America and Canada?

In the US, CBD that contains no more than 0.3% THC is legal on a federal level. Thirty-one states have gone ahead and legalised medical cannabis, and an additional 11 states have legalised recreational cannabis.

Is CBD oil legal in Asia?

CBD is illegal in most of Asia except for India, where THC content should be no more than 0.3%. In Japan, it is allowed but with a medical prescription.

Is CBD legal in Africa?

Most African countries do not allow CBD in any form. Except for South Africa. But there is a limit of 20mg per day dosage, and they do not allow advertising of CBD products.

Is CBD legal in South America?

Though most countries are beginning to vary their laws on CBD, only in Uruguay can you buy and sell CBD freely? You will have to do due diligence for the other countries before travelling with your CBD.

Is CBD legal in Australia and New Zealand?

In Australia, you can only buy CBD with a medical prescription. Similarly, in New Zealand, you should have a prescription from a specialist. 

Takeaway from is CBD oil legal in the UK?

The answer to this question is yes, CBD is legal in the UK. But it has to be within the legal framework provided by the government. Every package must not contain more than 1mg of THC. Starting this year, you will need certification to operate any business dealing with CBD. The legal status of CBD in other countries varies, and it is prudent you do a specific search to get the correct details before travelling. Read more on the legality of CBD oil in the UK.


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