Is CBD Legal in the UK? (Updated to Include Novel Foods)

What are the laws and regulations surrounding CBD?

In this article, we'll have a look at where the main CBD Products stand legally, specifically in the UK, as of 15th April 2021.

Firstly lets start by stating clearly that CBD IS LEGAL IN THE UK - as long as it does not contain THC, which is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

However, a CBD product with traces of psychoactive substances found in cannabis is considered to be a controlled substance under the 1971 Act and it is therefore unlawful to possess and/or supply, unless it meets the 'exempt product' criteria stated in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. There are also new Novel Food Regulations that must be followed. More on that to follow.

Types of CBD Products and Legal Status

CBD Isolate

CBD, in it's purest form - isolate powder, usually 99.9% pure - is completely legal in the UK. This however only makes up a small percentage of the products that are manufactured and the products that are indeed sold, in the UK.

CBD Full Spectrum Oil

Full Spectrum CBD Oil and products use whole hemp plant extract, to create products. In the case of oils, this is by mixing the extract with a carrier oil such as MCT or hemp seed oil to create a palatable product. These extracts also can only be deemed legal if they have been derived from an industrial hemp variety of cannabis plant with less than 0.2% THC (or delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol) by dry weight. Full Spectrum products, therefore, usually contain a small amount of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a controlled substance in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and as such is deemed an illegal compound. There is an exception with Full Spectrum CBD Oil, as the THC is found in such low amounts that it would be impossible for anyone to feel the psychoactive effects of THC in legal 'full spectrum' products, due to the maximum allowance of 1mg of psychoactive compounds per product. This is in fact, often why producers of better quality full spectrum CBD oils will only sell 10ml sized bottles, so they can maximise the amount of THC by % in their products, which can in some cases lead to better benefits for the user.

CBD Broad Spectrum Oil

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil and products are legal if derived from industrial hemp. They use whole hemp plant extracts to create products, following which, as a final step, the THC from the product is removed as far as practicable possible. It is likely there will be trace elements, but these elements are usually undetectable. As long as THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids are not present in the products (or present at extremely low levels, more on that above) these products would also be deemed as totally legal under UK law, providing the novels foods application contain gin hr product has been validated.

CBD Cosmetics

CBD cosmetic products have to abide by the same rules as above for psychoactive compound content to be deemed legal. They are also subject to Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 (The ‘Cosmetics Regulation’).

CBD Balms and muscle rubs/creams

Exactly the same law as isolate, broad spectrum and full spectrum oils.

CBD Flower / CBD Buds

Flowers or Buds from Hemp plants, despite these being from a plant with less than 0.2% THC by dry weight, and also despite the fact these are available to buy from many shops in the UK are deemed by law as cannabis - this means they are subject to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and are illegal. Tea also, again although not enforced, might well be deemed as an illegal product, unless the particular product has 3rd party laboratory testing certification to show the particular product has less than 1mg of THC per product pack, this would also be strictly deemed as illegal. It seems as though this is not strictly enforced in the UK, as these products are freely available for sale both in shops an online and unfortunately if a person is caught with these products, it does not exonerate the user or person in possession of these products, and they could be prosecuted. I hear that now Customs have tightened their procedures around CBD and Hemp, but we'll see if this has a knock on affect for the Hemp Flower Suppliers in the UK.

CBD Edibles and Ingestibles

Again CBD edibles are also covered by the same rules of law as Isolate, broad spectrum and full spectrum products. They are also governed by the laws surrounding food, as defined by the Food Standards Agency.

CBD Vaping Products

Again these follow the same rules as isolate, broad and full spectrum, with a slight addition, which is that Nicotine must not be added to CBD e-liquids sold for public consumption.

CBD Paste

Usually CBD Paste is whole plant extract, this will also be deemed legal but only if it meets the standards defined in the section regarding Full Spectrum Oil.

CBD Soft Capsules and tablets

Again these follow the same rules as isolate, broad and full spectrum,

Novel Food Regulations

A Novel Food is defined as a food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first Regulation on novel foods came into play. Despite the history surrounding the consumption of Whole Plant Hemp, spanning thousands of years, in January 2019 the EU classified CBD as a novel food.

The deadline for application validation was originally set to 31/3/21, however the FSA have pushed this out for a number of weeks, likely due to the large influx of last minute applications. Once applications are validated, the aim for this I believe to be the end of May 2020, a list of validated products will be loaded onto the FSA's website for all to see. The idea being that customers could check that the CBD they were buying was legal.

If a CBD product made for ingestion has not had a novel food application validated by this time will be illegal to sell in the UK.

Other legal information

Also its worth noting that by law all CBD products must follow the rules on product labelling as described by the Food Standards Agency.

As these products are sold as food supplements - Sellers of CBD cannot legally make any claims that CBD can prevent, treat or cure any disease or medical condition.

Where do Bio Med CBD Stand Currently?

Bio Med CBD have our conglomerate EIHA Novel Foods Application Validated by the Food Standards Agency, and now have a long path to wait until we see if the products are finally approved. Our products therefore look like they'll be on the shelves, certainly at least for the coming months, however there is a danger that the FSA will scrap full spectrum or whole plant CBD Oil, for many people they feel this is a better quality product for their needs, thus to read more about what you can do to prevent this from happening, please read our article here.

Sources/Citations/Additional References

UK Home Office Cannabis, CBD Factsheet

Food Standards Agency Guidance Novel Foods

FSA - CBD Guidance

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001