The past few years have witnessed CBD oil take the UK supplement market by storm. British consumers of all stripes are adopting it as a natural means of boosting their physical and mental well-being.
But even as CBD enjoys exponential growth in popularity and legitimacy, there remains plenty of confusion among the public regarding its effects, benefits, legal status, etc.
Today we’re focusing on the legal side of the equation. Is CBD oil legal in the UK? You’ll find the answer to that, and all the associated questions, in the paragraphs that follow.
Is CBD oil legal in the UK?
The short answer is yes, CBD oils are legal in the UK. So are other popular CBD products, such as gummies, rubs and balms, flower and even hash. (Be sure to purchase from a trustworthy retailer; otherwise, it can be difficult to know what you’re actually getting.)
If you’re wondering why CBD is legal while other cannabis products are not, there’s a fairly straightforward answer: CBD is not intoxicating.
Therein lies a still-prevalent misconception surrounding CBD. Because CBD is one of the main constituents of the cannabis plant, many people assume it has psychoactive properties. In other words, they think CBD will make them high.
The assumption is false. It’s the presence of THC, not CBD, that renders marijuana an intoxicating substance. The higher the THC level, the more intoxicating it becomes. CBD has nothing to do with this. In fact, evidence suggests that CBD acts to restrain the high caused by THC, making the cannabis plant more tolerable.
With that said, we must emphasize that while CBD itself is legal, not all CBD products are. The CBD market in the UK is becoming increasingly regulated, and it can be easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you’re not careful. Let’s take a closer look.
CBD laws in the UK explained
Per the UK government, for a CBD product to be legal it must:
- contain less than 0.2% THC and
- have been made from an officially approved industrial hemp variety.
Industrial hemp, as you may already know, is one of two varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. The other, better-known variety is marijuana. The difference between them is quite simple: whereas marijuana has high quantities of THC (upwards of 20% sometimes), hemp has virtually none.
To be exact, hemp contains no more than 0.2% THC. This trace quantity is too small to have any psychoactive effect. Therefore, CBD oils derived from hemp are non-intoxicating and can be legally purchased in the UK.
Always double check that the CBD you’re buying comes from hemp and not marijuana (the latter remains a controlled substance in the UK and is illegal without a prescription for medicinal cannabis). While strict government regulations of the CBD industry have made it tougher for dodgy products to enter the market, it still happens from time to time.
The onus is on you to ensure you buy CBD that satisfies legal requirements. A reputable company, like HempHash, will be able to provide you with third party laboratory test results showing the precise quantity of each ingredient.
CBD as a novel food
It’s important to understand that while CBD has therapeutic properties, it does not qualify as a medicine. Under UK law, companies are not allowed to market CBD products as being for medicinal use. Instead, CBD is regarded as a “novel food” supplement.
What are novel food supplements? The British government defines novel foods as those “which have not been widely consumed by people in the UK or European Union (EU) before May 1997.” Thus, they lack a “history of consumption.”
CBD was officially designated a novel food in January 2019. At that point, it became necessary for CBD manufacturers to obtain government authorisation to legally market and sell their products in the UK.
The authorisation process is stringent and expensive. CBD companies must show detailed information regarding production methods, intended uses and safety standards. They’re also obliged to provide a product sample for thorough analysis.
Companies that do not undergo this process are not authorised to sell CBD products in the UK.
Other legal considerations when using CBD in the UK
In this section, we address a few more common concerns about CBD and its legality.
Can you drive after taking CBD oil?
Yes, you can drive after taking CBD oil—as long as it’s of the legal variety. To reiterate, legal CBD products are derived from industrial hemp and contain 0.2% THC or less. If your CBD oil meets that standard, you don’t have to worry about it impairing your ability to drive.
Can you travel with CBD oil?
Is it a good idea to travel with CBD oil? It depends. In the case of domestic travel, the answer is a qualified yes. You can bring CBD oil on a domestic flight if it 1) satisfies the legal requirements mentioned above and 2) does not exceed 100ml in volume. Remember to keep it in the original container.
Returning to the UK with CBD oil purchased abroad is generally okay. But again, it must be hemp-based, with no more than 0.2% THC. Depending on where you bought the CBD oil, this may or may not be reasonable to assume. For instance, cannabis oil in Holland is very different from what you find on the UK market.
As for travelling from the UK to another country, it pays to be very, very careful. Many governments still enforce tight restrictions or absolute bans on all cannabis-derived products—including pure CBD isolate.
The last thing you want is to find yourself charged with a drug trafficking offence in a foreign country. Err on the side of extreme caution.