One of the most common questions regarding CBD in the UK in 2023 is:
Is CBD Legal
In the United Kingdom, the prospects of full legalization for the cannabis plant and its CBD derivative remain distant despite the mounting evidence supporting their remarkable interactions with and benefits for the human body. Nonetheless, recent years have witnessed some changes in regulations. For instance, the introduction of Sativex, a cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drug, in 2018 allowed multiple sclerosis patients in the UK to gain limited access to medical marijuana. Additionally, in November 2019, The Guardian reported that a study exploring the medicinal potential of cannabis would provide medical cannabis to approximately 20,000 patients in the UK over a two-year period.
However, amidst these developments, the classification of cannabis has oscillated between being a Class B and Class C drug. Furthermore, the largest hemp farm in the UK, primarily used for cultivating CBD products, had to destroy its crop after its license was not renewed due to confusion surrounding cultivation and harvesting guidelines. CBD (Hemp) can be grown in the UK, just not processed. Welcome to the crazy world of CBD.
These guidelines have proven to be perplexing and difficult to follow, especially given the increasing demand for high-quality, regulated CBD products. Industrial hemp, which contains minimal psychoactive THC, can be legally cultivated in the UK with a Home Office license, but only for the purpose of utilizing the mature stalk, fibre, or seeds of the plant.
This poses a challenge for the CBD industry since these plant parts contain very little CBD. The main source of CBD, found in the flowers and leaves, is still treated the same as high-THC cannabis and must be destroyed, rendering the cultivation of such crops economically unviable.
To circumvent this issue, CBD brands often resort to selling processed and imported CBD from countries where cultivation and harvesting are legal. Consequently, many CBD brands collaborate with farmers in various countries, including France, Guernsey, Switzerland, Croatia, Portugal, select states in the US, and a few other specific locations.
And there's more to explore. However, before delving deeper into CBD legislation and regulation, let's examine the reasons behind the initial prohibition of cannabis.
Unravelling the Timeline of Cannabis Legislation
It is astonishing that only in the past century has there been any form of prohibition surrounding the cultivation and utilization of hemp (cannabis sativa) and even high-THC marijuana. Interestingly, this prohibition emerged alongside scientific advancements that unveiled the intricate connection between cannabis and the human body, revealing its potential medicinal benefits beyond mere anecdotal accounts.
The earliest recorded instance of cannabis being used as medicine traces back to 2700 BC when Emperor Shen Nung, regarded as the 'Father of Chinese medicine,' prescribed marijuana tea for ailments such as gout, rheumatism, malaria, and memory problems. Preceding that, evidence suggests that hemp cultivation dates back to the end of the last ice age. Fast forward to the era when explorers from India and China gifted the plant, and even Henry VIII, the monarch of England, mandated all farmers to grow hemp, threatening severe penalties for non-compliance.
By the early 18th century, numerous medical formulations incorporated cannabis. While scientific understanding had not yet caught up, centuries of successful usage gave physicians the confidence to readily prescribe it. Regrettably, this was alongside morphine, a highly addictive and potentially lethal drug that had caused widespread addiction issues by the 19th century.
Consequently, the United States established the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and introduced the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. By 1914, drug use was officially criminalized for the first time, although cannabis remained legal in the US for medicinal and industrial purposes. The United Kingdom followed suit, outlawing recreational cannabis use in 1928. Moving forward to the 1960s, President Richard Nixon launched his 'war on drugs,' classifying all cannabis as a class B substance under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, asserting that the plant had no medicinal value. Speculation has since arisen regarding ulterior motives behind this decision, including the potential to criminalize individuals of African American and Latin American descent. Once again, the UK mirrored the US in its approach.
The Emergence of CBD: Unveiling the Hidden Realm
While the public sphere was immersed in media frenzy and propaganda against the growth and usage of hemp and marijuana, significant breakthroughs were unfolding in the background.
In the 1930s, British chemist Robert S. Cahn made a remarkable discovery by unveiling the partial structure of CBN (cannabinol), which eventually led to its complete identification in 1940. Subsequently, American chemist Roger Adams achieved a ground-breaking feat in 1942 by successfully isolating and identifying CBD and THC. However, at that time, the understanding of which molecules were responsible for specific effects and, more crucially, why, remained elusive.
Everything changed when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, renowned as the pioneer of CBD, began unravelling the intricate mechanisms of CBD and THC. One notable study involved administering 300mg of CBD daily to eight epilepsy patients for four months. Astonishingly, half of the participants experienced a complete cessation of seizures, while the others witnessed a remarkable improvement in their condition.
Yet, the true comprehension of how CBD, THC, and subsequently other cannabinoids and terpenes interact with the human body surfaced with the discovery of the first endocannabinoid, Anandamide, in the 1990s. This breakthrough was swiftly followed by the revelation of an unknown molecular signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system, marking a paradigm-shifting moment in the study of cannabis.
A 2023 Overview: Navigating the CBD Landscape in the UK
While the regulations governing CBD in the UK maintain a firm stance, the industry has experienced significant developments, and it is evident that more changes lie ahead. Yet, precisely what those changes will entail remains uncertain.
Here's what we currently understand:
• CBD products available in the UK are not intended for medicinal purposes. When ingested, they are considered food supplements, and when applied topically, they are viewed as cosmetics.
• Selling CBD products processed outside the UK is permissible as long as they contain no controlled substances like THC or CBN and are derived from approved hemp strains.
• THC, the psychoactive component, remains illegal for general sale in the UK. The legal maximum limit in England is 1mg per container, rendering most products effectively non-detectable for THC.
• Medicinal cannabis containing THC has been legalized for prescription in specific cases in the UK.
• CBN is also classified as a controlled substance and is illegal in the UK.
• The Misuse of Drugs Act (MODa) does not differentiate between hemp, cannabis, or marijuana.
• CBD flower is not legally permitted in the UK, but products made using CBD flower extract are acceptable.
• It's crucial to note that cannabis oil and CBD oil are distinct. Cannabis oil typically refers to an extract containing THC, making it illegal in the UK.
• Brands selling ingestible CBD products in the UK were required to submit a Novel Food Application by March 2021 (further details below).
• The CBD market in the UK still lacks comprehensive regulation (additional information below).
• Traveling from the UK with CBD presents a more intricate question, which we address in this article.
CBD and the World of Novel Foods - CBD & Quality Assurance
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), established a crucial deadline for all UK CBD companies engaged in the sale of consumable products. By March 31st, 2021, these companies were required to submit a Novel Food Application. It is important to note that this requirement does not extend to topical products such as our CBD Balm, as they adhere to rigorous cosmetic regulations.
Only consumable products, like ours at CBD UK (linked to validated applications), were permitted to remain available for purchase.
During this transitional phase, no new CBD consumable products were allowed to enter the market without a fully authorized application. The application process, which can take over a year, involves comprehensive completion, ensuring adherence to strict guidelines. Consequently, consumable CBD products launched in the UK after February 13th, 2020, were no longer legally permitted for sale from April 1st, 2021.
However, CBD products that were available before this date and linked to validated applications, were permitted to continue their sale while the authorization process was underway.
Once the FSA Novel Food List is complete, Trading Standards will then start to police this list to ensure that all products available for sale in the UK, are approved. This may mean that a lot of products are removed from sale. Even ones that have been for sale for many years and that are completely safe.
But what exactly does submitting a Novel Food Application entail? And how does it impact CBD products?
In essence, this application process aims to promote better quality products by enforcing stringent regulations and conducting thorough analysis of available products. This is a positive development since the current CBD market lacks comprehensive regulation, with many products potentially lacking CBD altogether, containing THC levels surpassing legal limits, or even containing undesirable heavy metals and chemicals.
When a CBD company submits a Novel Food Application, their products undergo a comprehensive analysis, including:
• Full chemical analysis
• Stability testing
• Microbiological testing
• Toxicological evaluation
• ADME evaluation
Undoubtedly, this process incurs significant expenses and time commitments. Unfortunately, this may result in the closure of several CBD businesses unable to afford the rigorous testing requirements.
The Ongoing Evolution of the CBD Industry
Currently, the UK market offers a plethora of CBD products, but it is important to note that many of these products may contain minimal to no CBD at all, despite claims made by their manufacturers. Additionally, some products may exceed the legal THC limits or even harbor toxic substances.
While specific regulations exist, the crucial factor lies in their enforcement. After all, Trading Standards and Product Safety laws have long deemed such deceptive practices illegal for all products. As this landscape continues to evolve, it ultimately falls upon you, the consumer, to conduct thorough research and ensure that you only purchase from reputable sources.
Essential to this process are third-party testing and readily available lab reports. It is imperative to insist on accessing these reports, and if a brand refuses to provide them or claims not to possess them, it is advisable to walk away.
Given that the science of cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is still in its early stages, there is much more to discover about this remarkable plant. However, after three decades since their discovery, we are finally witnessing the unveiling of long-awaited, comprehensive trials and studies. As our understanding expands, the incredible potential of CBD becomes even more evident, and we can only hope that legislation will continue to adapt accordingly.
In the present moment, CBD UK is committed to earning the trust of our customers and propelling the CBD industry forward by upholding exemplary standards. We place great emphasis on complete transparency regarding our product testing, and we are dedicated to continually educating the world about the dynamic and ever-changing CBD landscape.
CBG & other important Cannabinoids
CBG (or to use its proper name “Cannabigerol”), is just one
of over 110 Cannabinoids found in the Cannabis-Hemp plant. These include the
more well-known Cannabinoids like CBD and THC, as well as some
not-so-well-known compounds like CBN, CBC and CBV etc.
All play different roles and when synergistically combined, they can create what is known as “the Entourage Effect”. This is where the body becomes balanced (both physically and mentally) and enters a state of “Homeostasis”. This balance helps to optimize everything from body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, mood and mental state. We’ll talk more about Homeostasis and the Entourage Effect in another post.
Is CBG the Mother of all Cannabinoids?
As more research is carried out, we are now starting to understand the true importance of CBG.
One major discovery is that CBG is the precursor to all other Cannabinoids. CBG-A (which is the acid form of CBG), when heated, breaks down to form the major Cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, THC and CBC. This factor alone highlights how important CBG really is. As more and more data come to light, we estimate that CBG may well become more important than CBD. Shop CBG Oil
Is it Legal to give a child CBD? The legality of giving CBD to a child in the UK is a complex
issue. While CBD itself is legal, it is important to consult with a healthcare
professional and adhere to specific regulations regarding dosage, THC content,
and the child's specific medical condition.
Is it Legal to give a pet CBD?
The legality of giving CBD to pets in the UK is still
evolving. While CBD products for pets are available, it's important to consult
with a veterinarian and ensure that the product complies with regulations,
including THC content and appropriate dosage for the specific animal. Hemp products are however completely legal. Confused? We are.
For more information on this subject, click the link CBD for Pets.
CBD & The Home Office
The following statement is taken from the Home Office “Drug Licensing Factsheet- Cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids Cannabidiol (CBD) and its control status":
“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.
In addition to any issues associated with controlled substance content, cannabis/ cannabis extract products may also need to satisfy other regulatory requirements if clinical/medicinal benefits are claimed. In this respect, companies may wish to contact the MHRA for their view on whether the cannabis/ cannabis extract products are additionally subject to their licensing regime and control.”
To read the full data sheet, please click the following
link: Home Office CBD Information
To view all our CBD Oils and CBD products, visit our homepage CBD UK and check-out our amazing collection of UK legal and 100% safe products. Most on offer this month.