Is Hemp Flower Legal to Buy in The UK?

Interestingly, this is a commonly searched question. Still, nearly every single article on the internet seems to be incorrect or missing vital parts of information that argue the case for its legality.

So, let’s take a look at the UK law and delve a bit deeper into this commonly searched subject to offer the UK consumer total peace of mind.

Is Hemp Flower Legal to Buy in the UK?

The answer is, however, an absolute yes!  Hemp flower is legal to buy and sell in the UK, subject to meeting specific criteria, which we will look at today in more depth.

The Home Office’s Stance on Cannabis

The Drugs & Licensing Fact Sheet states that the general legislative position of the home office is that:

“Cannabis is a Class B controlled drug under Part II, Schedule 2, of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA 1971). It is also listed in Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDR 2001) and designated under the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2015 (2015 Order). As such, it is unlawful to possess, supply, produce, import or export this drug except under a Home Office licence. It is also an offence to cultivate any plant of the genus Cannabis except under a Home Office licence.”

However, this is very broad and vague. Nevertheless, it is illegal to import, export, possess, supply or produce cannabis except under a license, and hemp flower would fall under this law if we didn’t consider further exceptions and exemptions.

So let’s examine low Delta 9 -THC Cannabis, commonly known as industrial hemp.

“The legislative controls identified above apply to cannabis plants cultivated for the production of drug material (e.g. hemp fibre or oil). Cultivation or possession of cannabis plants cannot lawfully be undertaken without the requisite Home Office Licence. Home Office policy provides that licences may be issued for the cultivation of cannabis plants with a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content for the production of hemp fibre for industrial purposes or the obtaining of seeds which are then pressed for their oil. For both of these uses, licences are granted to enable the use of non-controlled parts of the plant (i.e. seeds and fibre/ mature stalk only). This policy is only applicable where non-controlled parts of the plant are used. There needs to be a defined commercial end use and the Home Office only issues licences for cultivation of plants from approved seed types with a THC content not exceeding 0.2%. The ‘0.2%’ reference is used solely to identify varieties which may potentially be cultivated, within the scope of this policy, and to differentiate between the fee level is applicable under the Misuse of Drugs (Fees) Regulations 2010. The Hemp (Third Country Imports) Regulations 2002 also require, except in specified circumstances, that hemp from ‘third countries’ be imported under a licence and, in the case of hemp seeds other than for sowing, under an authorisation.”

This means that even low Delta 9 THC cannabis, such as industrial hemp, is a controlled substance and must be cultivated under license. Even then, only the hemp seed or fibre can be used, and there must be a clear end result.

But hemp seed & fibre doesn’t contain CBD?

The home office states:

"CBD as an isolated substance, in its pure form, would not be controlled under the MDA 1971 / MDR 2001. If a CBD ‘product’ contained any controlled cannabinoids, unintentionally or otherwise (e.g. THC or THC-V), then it is highly likely that the product would be controlled. It is our understanding that it is very difficult to isolate pure CBD, and in our experience many products in fact do not fully disclose their contents or provide a full spectrum analysis at an appropriate level of sensitivity to accurately and consistently determine their true content or control status. Against this background, the presumption has to be one of caution - that is, that a CBD containing product would be controlled under the MDA 1971 / MDR 2001 as a result of its other cannabinoid content."

That means that the home office would most likely classify any full-spectrum CBD product as controlled. It’s not looking good so far for CBD products, including hemp flower.

CBD & other cannabinoid products

"CBD and other cannabiniod ‘Products’ For a CBD and other cannabiniod products to be lawfully available for human consumption it needs to either meet the Exempted Product Criteria in Regulation 2 of the MDR 2001 or the definition of a CBPM in Schedule 2 to the MDR 2001 for its possession to be lawful."

OK, so now this is interesting.  Hemp flower and other full-spectrum CBD products are controlled and therefore illegal UNLESS they meet the definition of an exempted product by definition of regulation 2 of the MDR 2001.

Let’s look at the exempted product criteria

"The ‘exempted product’ definition - Regulation 2 of the MDR 20012 . Regulation 2 (Interpretation) of the MDR 2001 provides that some products may, in limited circumstances, be considered ‘exempt’ from control, notwithstanding their ‘controlled drug’ content. The regulation sets out: An “exempt product” means a preparation or other product consisting of one or more component parts, any of which contains a controlled drug, where—
  1. a) the preparation or other product is not designed for administration of the controlled drug to a human being or animal;
  2. b) the controlled drug in any component part is 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; and
  3. c) no one component part of the product or preparation contains more than one milligram of the controlled drug or one microgram in the case of lysergide or any other N-alkyl derivative of lysergamide. To meet the criteria of an exempted product all three limbs of the definition must be met."

So there you have it, hemp flower is controlled under the MDA 1971 & MDR 2001 and is illegal to buy or sell unless it fits the criteria of an exempted product

Simply speaking, the CBD product in question is not intended for the administration of a controlled drug, is packaged in such a form that it doesn’t constitute a health risk, and there is <1mg of a controlled cannabinoid per preparation. 

This is the vital part of information that all of these other writers who falsely claim that hemp flower is illegal seem to miss out on purpose. There is an exempted product criterion, which means hemp flower can be and is exempt if it meets those three limbs!

It’s as simple as that.