Is CBD legal in the UK? Yes, CBD products are legal in the UK, as long as they contain 0.2% THC or less, and are grown by an EU-approved hemp cultivator.
However, there is still a lot of confusion about the exact legal status of CBD, which we’ll clear up here.
To start with, let’s get our definitions straight. CBD - which stands for cannabidiol - comes from the cannabis plant. It is one of about 113 cannabinoids that can be extracted from the plant and actually accounts for about 40% of the plant’s extract.
Other cannabinoids include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis and causes the intoxication or ‘high’ the plant is mainly known for. So although CBD comes from the same source, it is not the same thing and has different effects.
As most people know, it is illegal to possess, produce or trade in cannabis in the UK, and most cannabinoids are currently listed as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. CBD is not one of them and is legal to possess, buy and sell in the UK - with some caveats.
Cannabis has a long history of traditional use, particularly in places like India, China and the Middle East and it was also commonly used in the Victorian era in the UK. After an influential international conference in 1928 where its effect was compared to that of opium, it was banned in the UK.
In 1968 the Home Office commissioned the Wootton Report which found of cannabis use that ‘There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime or aggression, anti-social behaviour, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment.’
That report did not lead to any change in the law, and while marijuana remains illegal in the UK, we have seen a relaxation of rules around CBD and medical cannabis. The legal and social changes have partly been driven by high profile cases such as those of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley.
CBD for general purchase
If a CBD product is going to be advertised as having medicinal benefits, it must be licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Without a license, a CBD-based product can still be sold, but it mustn’t make any claims about its medical efficacy. That’s why so many CBD products are promoted as additives or food supplements.
In January 2019 the Food Standards Agency said it would regard CBD products as what’s known as a ‘novel food’. This term is used for products that have no long history of use, or have new methods of products. Products in this category must be authorised and be proven as safe before being marketed to consumers.
THC content in CBD products
To be legal for purchase by the public, CBD products in the UK must contain 0.2% THC or less. At the correct level, a user won’t experience any psychoactive effects from taking it.
It’s important to say that if a CBD product makes you feel intoxicated or gives you a high, there is something wrong with it. There is almost certainly a problem in the manufacturing process, or there has been a mislabelling. You are definitely within your rights to report it.